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Peter Ellis hopes to clear his name, and live to see the results

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Monday, 12 August 2019, 9:07AM
Peter Ellis will be taking his appeal to the Supreme Court. (Photo / File)

It's been a 28-year fight for convicted child sex offender Peter Ellis to try to clear his name, now he's just hoping to live to see the results.

Ellis, 61, served seven years of a 10 year jail sentence for abusing seven children at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre in 1991.

He had been convicted, after a trial in the High Court at Christchurch in 1993, of 16 counts of sexual offending.

Ellis was released from prison in 2000, but has always maintained his innocence.

He now reportedly only has months to live after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Last month, the Supreme Court said it would hear Ellis' case. The approved ground of appeal was whether a miscarriage of justice occurred.

In an exclusive interview with Newstalk ZB this morning, Ellis told host Mike Hosking he was "feeling quite excited" about the impending hearing, but hoped to live to see it happen.

"Somebody said to me 'it looks like the crèche case is pulling into the station' and I said 'well I hope my train isn't going out first'.

"It's taken a long time, but I am very optimistic," he said.

The Supreme Court will be looking at the original trial in light of modern science and expert evidence.

Ellis will be supported by a team of University of Otago staff who have done a vast amount of work on the appeal.

Ellis told Hosking the university had done a "wonderful job".

"There have been people who have been working at the coal face for nearly 27 years who have all come together and put things together," he said.

Earlier this month, Law school dean Mark Henaghan, who is working on the case, told the Otago Daily Times the basis of the appeal was the "unreliability" of evidence admitted to the court by an "expert" psychiatrist and the children themselves.

When asked about the complexity of the evidence against him, Ellis told Hosking witnesses didn't "quite get it right".

"It's something that probably innately we all know as human beings that children are children and adults are adults, and we can all make mistakes," he said.

"We think we might have seen something or done something - and it's just unfortunate our memories have failed us or we just don't quite get it right."

Ellis was brought to tears when he spoke of what it had been like living with the convictions for all of these years, but he chose to focus on the positives.

"I have friends I never knew I had and expert witnesses that turned up; people who read Lynley Hood's book A City Possessed; and other people who have stumbled upon their own things and had their own life experiences and suddenly realised 'oh Peter Ellis has been through something similar'," he said.

"The North Canterbury community have looked after me. It's been 19 years since I have been out of jail and I can walk through my community and the children there call out to me.

"They don't look at me in a different way anymore because they have actually known me and they trust in what they see."

Ellis has terminal bladder cancer and isn't sure how long he will live.

He said clearing his name is not only important to him, but all the people who have fought in his court over the years - some of whom have died.

"It becomes important when the number of people who have supported me and helped me over the years that have passed away; the stories that haven't been told of parents that chose sides and their marriages broke up; the crèche children that didn't believe it happened – so there is that particular aspect of it.

"There is also my mother who put her time into this - those people who have slipped away and have deserved an answer," he said.

Ellis hoped that if he dies before the hearing, these people may still get closure.

"I am hoping that the select committee might look at putting in something that would safeguard someone's right to still clear their name even when they have passed away," he said.

"There should be a mechanism if someone has shown intent to push on with their case, worked hard on the case, was shown intent to go for compensation - that his family have the right to have his name cleared, as do I."

Ellis has twice appealed to the Court of Appeal, the second time after a referral by the Governor-General.

The first appeal quashed three of his convictions, but the second appeal against the remaining 13 convictions was dismissed in 1999.

After the second Court of Appeal decision there was a ministerial inquiry in 2001 by Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, which concluded there was no risk of a miscarriage of justice.

There have also been unsuccessful petitions to Parliament for a Royal Commission in 2003, 2008 and 2014.

 

ON AIR: Andrew Dickens Monday Afternoons

12PM - 4PM