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Ministerial Inquiry To Be Held Into Ellis Case


Media Release
Hon Phil Goff

10 March 2000


MINISTERIAL INQUIRY TO BE HELD INTO ELLIS CASE

The retired Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum has been asked to undertake a Ministerial Inquiry into Mr Peter Ellis's case, Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today.

"I want to emphasise that it is extremely rare for further inquiry to be conducted into matters that have been considered by the Court of Appeal. However, in this case the Court itself indicated that there were matters that might be more appropriately addressed by an inquiry of this kind."

Peter Ellis twice petitioned the Governor-General for the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy, in 1997 and again in 1998.

As a result the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal. In its subsequent judgment, the Court indicated that in its opinion no miscarriage of justice had occurred in Mr Ellis's case. However, the Court also commented that there were matters that might more appropriately be the subject of further inquiry. The Court was unable to resolve all matters fully because of the form in which some of the evidence was presented and the nature of its appellate role.

Following this judgment, Peter Ellis petitioned the Governor-General for a third time in October 1999, requesting a pardon and a Royal Commission of Inquiry into his case.

"I have asked Sir Thomas Eichelbaum to look into the matters that the Court of Appeal indicated it could not appropriately consider," Mr Goff said.

"In particular, I have asked Sir Thomas to identify current best practice for investigating mass allegation sexual abuse cases, and to determine whether these practices were followed in Mr Ellis's case. I have also asked Sir Thomas to seek the opinion of at least two internationally recognised experts in the area."

"I recently met with representatives of the crèche children's families. I understand and sympathise with their concerns. The need to minimise the distress for the crèche children was one of the key factors that influenced the shape of the inquiry. This was why I have established a Ministerial Inquiry and not a Commission of Inquiry. A Ministerial Inquiry is more flexible, more low key and more discreet. It is also likely to be speedier and much less of a burden on the taxpayer."

ENDS

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