New Zealand Law Society - Supreme Court grants Peter Ellis leave to appeal

Supreme Court grants Peter Ellis leave to appeal

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The Supreme Court has granted leave to Peter Ellis leave to appeal his 1993 sexual offending convictions.

Mr Ellis was convicted in the High Court in Christchurch in 1993 of 16 counts of sexual offending against seven child complainants. He was acquitted on a further nine charges. The complainants attended the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre where he was employed. On 22 June 1993 he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

A second appeal to the Court of Appeal (after the first in 1994 which quashed three convictions) was dismissed in October 1999 (R v Ellis [1999] NZCA 226; [2000] 1 NZLR 513). The Governor-General had referred the remaining 13 convictions back to the Court of Appeal pursuant to section 406(a) of the Crimes Act 1961. After a further section 406 application a Ministerial Inquiry in 2001 by Sir Thomas Eichelbaum QC concluded there was no risk of a miscarriage of justice. There were unsuccessful petitions to Parliament for a Royal Commission in 2003, 2008 and 2014.

In Ellis v R [2019] NZSC 83 the Supreme Court has granted Mr Ellis' application for an extension of time for leave to appeal and his application for leave to appeal.

Barrister Rob Harrison has appeared for Mr Ellis.

The approved ground of appeal is whether a miscarriage of justice occurred in the case. The Supreme Court says affidavit evidence from Professor Harlene Hayne and Dr Thelma Patterson filed by Mr Ellis raises issues of general and public importance and significant issues specific to his case.

"[16] On the basis of the supplementary affidavit of Professor Hayne, we are satisfied that the research underpinning her evidence was only very recently completed and that the type of empirical analysis of the evidential interviews that she has conducted is a new approach and significantly different from the expert evidence available to the Court of Appeal in 1999. We are also satisfied that her analysis could not have been completed earlier than it was, both because of the magnitude of the task and the availability of comparative data," the Court says.

"[17] In our view the affidavits of Professor Hayne and Dr Patterson raise issues of general and public importance and significant issues specific to Mr Ellis’ case. The interest of justice requires that these issues be ventilated on appeal, despite the length of time since the second Court of Appeal decision."