14 Nov 2019

Peter Ellis appeal case taken to Supreme Court

7:19 pm on 14 November 2019

A case that has gripped the nation for nearly three decades continued in the country's highest court today, two months after the death of the man at the centre of it all.

Peter Ellis, pictured in 1992

Peter Ellis served seven years of a 10-year jail sentence after being found guilty of abusing seven children at the Christchurch Civic Creche. Photo: Supplied

Peter Ellis served seven years of a 10-year jail sentence after being found guilty of abusing seven children at the Christchurch Civic Creche where he worked in 1991.

He always maintained his innocence and three convictions were overturned in 1994 after one of the children said she lied.

Two police investigations, trips to the Court of Appeal, a Ministerial inquiry, along with petitions calling for independent reviews - the Peter Ellis case has been the subject of thousands of news articles, documentaries and debate for decades.

Ellis always maintained his innocence, refusing to attend parole hearings because he would have been forced to admit the accusations were true.

The original charges were based on the preschoolers' testimony of satanic ritual abuse and torture.

Ellis' legal team filed an application for leave to appeal in July to consider whether there was a miscarriage of justice - due to the children's evidence being improperly obtained - a lack of expert evidence - and unreliable expert evidence at his trial.

He died in early September after battling bladder cancer.

Today, his case continued - this time at the country's highest court.

Ellis' lawyer Rob Harrison told the Supreme Court there was jurisdiction to hear the appeal and it had general public importance.

"The court does have jurisdiction to proceed where there has been the death of an appellant," he said.

Mr Harrison said Ellis' dying wish was for it to be heard.

"What he was most emphatic about was that we continue in the best way we thought appropriate," he said.

Mr Harrison acknowledged it was a difficult situation and mentioned the general stress on the Ellis' family and for the complainants.

"Whether or not there is guilt or innocence and that is unfortunate in that there is no eventual closure to date for the families - but the nature of this particular case and the way in which it was brought about - is always going to have that odour to it - if you like," he said.

In the Crown's submission to the Supreme Court, Una Jagose QC said Ellis' death changed the situation.

"Because when the appellant dies - his interests die too... I accept and acknowledge the interests of those who mourn the dead appellant - or support him."

"They have interests that deserve recognition," she added.

Ms Jagose said the interest of the complainants had to be taken into account too.

Further written submissions will be filed before the Supreme Court over the coming weeks, before the Justices make a final decision.

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