1 September 2006
Peterellis.org.nz would like to salute Lord Cooke for the many contributions he has made to the judicial establishment and to the people of New Zealand over the past three decades, spokesperson Richard Christie says.
Along with the justified accolades that Lord Cooke deserves, it is also time to reflect on his role in the Peter Ellis case, and to reflect that all judges are still only human, and are capable of making unfortunate judgments with dreadful consequences for individual people.
Lord Cooke sat on the Court of Appeal that considered the retraction of evidence of a key witness who had previously testified against Peter. The judgment came to the conclusion that "..we are by no means satisfied that she did lie [at trial] although she may now genuinely believe she did." In other words believe the allegation, but doubt any retraction. The child has never since wavered from her retraction of allegations against Mr Ellis.
The Court of Appeal did still quash the convictions associated with that child, presumably taking into account the doubts expressed, but failed to appreciate the significance of that retraction. The retraction cast doubt on the reliability of the evidence of all witnesses on the basis of the common way in which that evidence had been coerced. Peter Ellis was not given the retrial he deserved at the time, and continued to serve the full sentence originally delivered.
It is interesting to note, as Peter Ellis prepares to lodge what is probably the last appeal made by a New Zealand criminal case to the Privy Council, that Lord Cooke was influential in the establishment of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the creation of which effectively prevents external examination of any future outcomes of New Zealand's judicial processes.
There was a real failure of the judicial system to properly address the Peter Ellis case. The most senior judges in New Zealand failed Peter Ellis. Peterellis.org.nz continues to call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry as the only means to resolve the issues and processes surrounding the case.