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Expert Testimony - Peter Ellis

Ross Francis made this Official Information request to Ministry of Justice

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From: Ross Francis

Dear Ministry of Justice,

When he reviewed Mr Ellis’ case in 1999, the late Sir Thomas Thorp said that “where one child claimed to have seen serious abuse being committed on another, the second child denied any such happening”. He also recommended that Professor Stephen Ceci be approached by the Ministry to provide a formal review of the complainants' evidence. Since the writing of Thorp's report in March 1999, has the Ministry contacted Professor Ceci about the Peter Ellis case? Please provide me with copies of all information held by the Ministry about Professor Ceci, including any discussions by officials about him.

Where on the Ministry’s website, or elsewhere, can a copy of Thorp’s report be found?

Before the start of Murray Shane Webb’s retrial in October 2003, Justice Heath commented on Dr Karen Zelas’ written brief of evidence. Her intended testimony at Webb’s retrial featured many statements which might have assisted Mr Ellis during his trial. They included:

“[T]he accuracy of recall of children (6-9 years) suffer (sic) a considerable reduction in comparison with adults.

[A] child or young person may have a strong need to please a third party; or to fit in with a generally held view of another person, such as, that the person is a child molester...

False memories can be held just as strongly as accurate memories as has been shown in scientific experiments.

[W]hat may develop over time is a very strongly held belief in a memory which may be partially or even completely inaccurate.

The reliability of children's evidence depends crucially on how they are questioned and this fact underpins specialist interviewing.

When memory of an event is no longer strong and clear, gaps may tend to be filled from other sources, or memories may be embellished by new information or imagination.

The use of leading questions and suggestions in talking with children may result in the creation of a false memory and/or suggest an alleged perpetrator. An example being a parent asking if a particular person touched the child sexually.

Repeated questioning on the same subject...may encourage the generation of new inaccurate information to please the interviewer or to get a difficult interview over and done with as quickly as possible.

Where memories are weak or where there are gaps in the memories, they are most vulnerable to being influenced by suggestive questioning. So suggestive questioning after long delays may be especially problematic.

Obviously, the more discussion of a memory of an event there is, the stronger the memory is likely to become and the greater the likelihood of inaccuracies creeping in.”

Does the Justice Ministry hold this information? Please send me all information held by the Ministry about Dr Zelas between 1 July 2003 and 30 June 2004 (inclusive). What comments, if any, has the Ministry articulated in respect of Dr Zelas’ conduct, impartiality or independence as an expert witness? Please send me copies of all records held in regards to this question.

Yours faithfully,

Ross Francis

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From: OIA@justice.govt.nz
Ministry of Justice

Thank you for contacting the Ministry of Justice [1][Ministry of Justice request email]
mailbox.  You can expect to hear from us within two business days of your
email being received.

 

The Ministry of Justice holds a wide range of information that we can
provide to you.  If you would like to see more about how we can help you
please see our [2]Official Information Act Requests page.

 

Please note that the Ministry of Justice can't give legal advice. For
legal advice, you should contact a lawyer, Community Law or Citizens’
Advice Bureau.

 

If you are requesting information held by the courts, such as sentencing
notes, court records or information about a case currently before the
court, the records of courts and tribunals are not subject to the Official
Information Act 1982. Access to these is subject to separate legislation
and [3]court rules and you will need to contact the relevant court
directly. The details for the courts can be found [4]here.

 

For information held by other agencies, such as the New Zealand Police,
check out the [5]Directory of Official Information to find out what
information each agency holds and their contact details.

Ngā mihi

Ministerial Relations and Services

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From: Grant, Alison
Ministry of Justice


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Attachment Letter to Mr Francis re OIA request dated 29 Nov 2020 7 Jan 2021.pdf
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Kia ora Mr Francis,

 

Please find the attached letter in regards to your OIA request of 29
November 2020.

 

Nāku, nā Alison

 

Alison Grant (she/her)

Media Advisor | Communications Services
Ministry of Justice | Tāhū o te Ture

DDI: +64 4 466 5058 | Ext 65058
M: 027 290 2119
[1][email address] | [2]justice.govt.nz

 

 

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From: Ross Francis

Dear Mr Orr,

You say that my "remaining queries involved broad requests for all information held on individuals involved in the Ellis case". That is incorrect. My request did not ask for all information held about individuals involved in the Ellis case. It asked for specific information about Dr Zelas and information about Professor Ceci. The late Sir Thomas Thorp advised the Ministry to obtain Professor Ceci's formal opinion on the complainants' evidence. Asking for information that might explain why the Ministry didn't adopt Thorp's advice is, in the circumstances, a reasonable request. However, I am prepared to withdraw that part of my request for the time being.

Further information about Professor Ceci in the context of the Justice Ministry's refusal to engage him can be found in "New Evidence in the Peter Ellis case".

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Ne...

Under the Public Records Act, information must be created and maintained in such a way that it is easily accessible. Given that requirement, it should not be an onerous task to provide me with the information I have requested in respect of Dr Zelas.

You have not advised whether information is held in the minds of officials that could assist me.

Yours sincerely,

Ross Francis

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From: Manktelow, Barnaby
Ministry of Justice


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Attachment Letter to Mr Francis 12.01.2021.pdf
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Hi Ross,

 

Thanks for your email of 8 Jan to Mr Orr. Attached is a reply.

 

Ngā mihi,

Barnaby

Barnaby Manktelow

Communications Assistant | Communications Services
Ministry of Justice | Tāhū o te Ture

P +64 4 978 7033 | Ext 45033

[1][email address] | [2]justice.govt.nz

 

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From: Ross Francis

Dear Manktelow, Barnaby,

In response to Jeff Orr’s letter of January 12, he is correct in his assessment of my request.

Yours sincerely,

Ross Francis

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From: Media
Ministry of Justice


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Attachment OIA Response R Francis 15.01.2021.pdf
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Attachment OIA Response R Francis 15.01.2021 Appendix A.pdf
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Kia ora Ross,

 

Please find attached your OIA request of 29 November 2020.

 

Ngā mihi,

Barnaby

Barnaby Manktelow

Communications Assistant | Communications Services
Ministry of Justice | Tāhū o te Ture

[1]justice.govt.nz

 

 

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