Peter Ellis is dying and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer as his lawyer fights for one last appeal against his convictions for sexually abusing seven children at a childcare centre in 1991.

A lawyer acting on Ellis’ behalf, Rob Harrison, says his client has been admitted into care and is now requesting the media and public respect his privacy.

Published in TVNZ

Ellis, 61, has been fighting to clear his name for 28 years in what some have described as the most egregious miscarriage of justice in New Zealand’s history.

He was found guilty of abusing seven children at the Christchurch Civic Creche at trial in 1993 and served seven years of the eventual 10-year sentence.

The children accused him of carrying out violent sexual rituals, but prosecutors were later criticised for relying too heavily on their testimony. The case was highly controversial and divided Christchurch at the time, with critics also taking issue with the techniques social workers used to interview the children.

Mr Harrison, who was Ellis’ original trial lawyer, has returned to the case, filing an application for leave to appeal Ellis’ convictions in the Supreme Court.

He would not reveal any other details about his clients’ health and said Ellis was now requesting the media to stop approaching him and his family for comment on the case.

The legal team hopes they will be granted a hearing and hopes to introduce a new report from a group at Otago University, which they say re-analyses the techniques used to interview the children in the case, comparing them with modern best practice.

Mr Harrison says Ellis “does not want a sympathy vote” and simply “wants someone to look at this case and consider it as dispassionately as possible”.

All other attempts to clear Ellis’ name have failed but University of Canterbury sociologist and criminal justice researcher Jarrod Gilbert believes the Supreme Court will exonerate him.

“I would argue that this is the most, one of the most egregious miscarriages of the justice the country’s ever seen,” he says.

“The social work techniques at the time have a great deal to answer for, in this case in particular, one about how they engaged with the children and pulled information from them, and the other was a belief that children don’t lie.”

The question now is whether Peter Ellis will ever get to hear the verdict of his last court challenge.

By Thomas Mead
Published in TVNZ
26 July 2019