Capill's long fall from grace

By Sue Eden

Graham Capill completed a spectacular fall from grace today when he was jailed for nine years on child sex charges.

As Christian Heritage Party leader, Graham Capill spoke out against sex before marriage and spent almost 14 years espousing "pro-family" policies.

But the life he led proved far from the moralistic one he preached, as one by one allegations he had indecently assaulted and raped girls emerged.

Capill, 46, last month pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court to rape, unlawful sexual connection, and three counts of indecent assault against two girls under 12.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting an eight-year-old girl over a one-year period.

As a teenager, Capill felt he was never good enough to be a Christian.

He said he came to realise Christianity was not about being a good person, "it's for people that know that they're bad people".

"A Christian is a person who knows that they don't have any hope and don't have any future and they need someone to stand in on their behalf and that, of course, is Jesus Christ."

For many years the former police prosecutor was known as a moral conscience of the nation.

"He's become the Patricia Bartlett of the 90s," Auckland University political scientist Ray Miller said, when Capill was leading the Christian Heritage political party.

It was a position he held for almost 14 years before stepping down in August 2003, citing health reasons.

His resignation followed a public row with then deputy leader and former Women's Refuge head Merepeka Raukawa Tait.

She had wanted Capill to resign earlier after the party attracted less than 2 per cent of the party vote at the July 2002 election.

Mrs Raukawa-Tait cited concerns about the lack of financial accountability and "un-Christian tactics" of Capill for wanting him to go.

As leader, Capill was often in the news. He objected to a controversial artwork depicting the Virgin Mary encased in a condom.

He called "obscene" a 2.5m Tokoroa carving of a male Maori holding an erect penis, saying society had become more violent with rape and abuse of women all too common.

"Even soft core pornography" like that could have a "detrimental effect" on some men, he said.

He lauded a chastity programme for secondary students that invited teenagers to sign a pledge promising to abstain from sexual intercourse until they found a life partner.

He opposed the Prostitution Reform Bill, saying casual, promiscuous and extra-marital sex would further undermine the position of the family.

He wanted the family unit strengthened and supported, given the divorce rate, suicide and crime rates, and child abuse.

He said other political parties claimed to be "pro-family" but were not because they aborted children, did not support the traditional view of marriage, and were loading future generations with more debt.

"We're saying that every policy should be written to support family life again," he said while Christian Heritage leader.

He was appalled at the idea of convicted child molester Peter Ellis being allowed to wear women's clothing and make-up in jail because it did "nothing" to rehabilitate people who had been jailed for sex crimes.

He did not see himself as judgmental but as one, in a free society, who should be able to stand up and say "I think something's a load of rubbish".

He and his wife Judy married at 22 and had their first child at 23. They have nine children -- four boys and five girls.

"I think we're probably fairly average New Zealanders," Judy Capill said in a 2000 Sunday Star-Times interview.

"People portray Graham as this straight, narrow boring guy but if they could see him when he's playing with the kids, they'd see a different picture," she said.

Capill has said people thought he was only ever worried about moral matters and family matters, but he was also concerned about poverty, health, education and welfare.

Christian Heritage scored its best result when, as part of the Christian Coalition, it got 4.3 per cent of the party vote at the 1996 election.

Had it reached 5 per cent, it would have won seats in Parliament.

Capill was born in 1959 in West Africa to missionary parents but moved to New Zealand as a child.

He was educated at a Christian school in Christchurch, a city where he has spent most of his life.

His early ambition was to become an orchestra conductor but he served an apprenticeship as an avionics engineer with Air New Zealand.

Involvement with St John's Ambulance -- when "we saw the hurts, we saw the difficulties, we saw the drug overdoes and we saw the busted homes" -- inspired him to enter the Christian ministry.

He studied in Australia, obtaining a bachelor of divinity degree in 1986.

On his return to New Zealand, he became the pastor of a Dunedin church before being appointed leader of the Christian Heritage Party.

He completed a law degree and was admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor in 1998.

After stepping down from the party he worked for Christchurch police in the communications centre.

Last year he became a police prosecutor working in the same court in which he was today sentenced.

- NZPA

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