Five men have been convicted of a string of sex attacks on the remote British colony of Pacific Island, Pitcairn. The group of men, which includes the island’s Mayor, Steve Christian, had faced dozens of charges, including rape and indecent assault on girls as young as 12.
The verdicts were announced by judges sent from New Zealand to the small island with a population of just 47, for the trial. Sentencing is scheduled for later this week and an appeal is expected. In total, eight women, who now live in New Zealand, testified in the trial and apparently welcomed the verdict. Some defendants had argued consensual underage sex with girls aged 12 and 13 was traditional on the remote island, a UK colony which lies roughly half way between Peru and New Zealand in the South Pacific.
But Brian Nicholson, from the UK High Commission in New Zealand, said the court found that argument had little bearing on most of the charges.
The men’s lawyers had also argued that the Bounty mutineers, who settled on the island, stopped being British subjects when they burnt the ship in 1789. Lawyers are expected to argue that the British government does not, therefore, have any jurisdiction over Pitcairn Island because it is a free and separate, independent nation.
A jail had to be built on the island in preparation for the trial’s outcome, however the men will not immediately be sent to prison because of the vital roles they perform on the remote island.
The court heard how young girls on the tiny UK colony were treated as sexual playthings and rape was a way of life on the island. One former Pitcairn woman, who says she was raped four times as a young girl, explained how the girls are treated as though they are sex objects. Contrary to this, local women are apparently arguing that the practice is an island tradition and consensual, saying some of the alleged victims of abuse had been coerced into testifying. The charges stem from 1999 when an islander told a visiting British policewoman that she had been sexually abused.