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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Six guilty in Pitcairn sex trial
Steve Christian (left), the island's mayor, with his lawyer
Steve Christian (left), was convicted of five charges and cleared of five more
Five men have been convicted of a string of sex attacks on the remote Pacific island of Pitcairn.

The men, including 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 for the trial. The island's population is just 47.

A sixth man had earlier pleaded guilty. Sentencing is scheduled for later this week and an appeal is expected.

A seventh man was cleared at the trial.

The eight women who testified in the trial and who now live in New Zealand had welcomed the verdict, TV New Zealand quoted a police officer as saying.

A lot of the cases were rape. Underage sex is not particularly relevant
Brian Nicholson
UK High Commission, New Zealand

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.

That claim had also been supported by many women on the island.

But Brian Nicholson, from the UK High Commission in New Zealand, said the court found that this argument had little bearing on most of the charges.

"A lot of the cases were in fact rape. Underage sex is not particularly relevant in that context," he told the BBC's Today programme.

Pitcairn's position in mid-Pacific
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.

Appeals

The BBC's Michael Peschardt says that the men's appeals will spark a significant constitutional debate over the coming months.

Our correspondent says their lawyers will argue before the Privy Council that the British government, which brought these prosecutions, does not have any jurisdiction over Pitcairn island and that it is a free and separate independent nation.

They are also expected to say, in a challenge to be heard in New Zealand in February, that since the mutiny Britain has never re-imposed its will until now.

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 appeals and the vital roles they perform on the remote island.

Michael Peschardt said there were doubts over whether a settlement on the island could remain viable if the men were jailed.

Pitcairn
The islanders say they severed ties with Britain 200 years ago
But the High Commission's Mr Nicholson said: "There is the possibility under the law for variations on the sentence. They may be allowed out to man the longboats (that bring food onto the island) and perform other necessary duties."

Charges

The men faced 51 charges dating back 40 years in some cases.

  • Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendant of Bounty mutineer leader Fletcher Christian, was convicted of five rapes and cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape
  • His son, Randy Christian, was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assault charges, but cleared of one rape and two indecent assaults
  • Len Brown, 78, was convicted of two rapes
  • His son Dave Brown was found guilty of nine indecent assaults, but was cleared of four charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency. He had pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault but denied the other 12 charges
  • Terry Young was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults but was cleared of one indecent assault charge
  • Dennis Christian pleaded guilty at the trial to one indecent assault and two sexual assault charges
  • Jay Warren, the island's magistrate, was cleared of indecent assault.

Mr Warren's wife Carol told TV New Zealand that despite his acquittal, his reputation had been destroyed.

"The whole world now sees him as a child molester," she said.




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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Jerusalem Post 6 convicted of sex abuse on Pitcairn 'Bounty' Isle - 23 hrs ago
Washington Post6 Convicted on Sex Abuse Charges on Pacific Island - 28 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Six found guilty in Pitcairn sex offences trial - 30 hrs ago
Independent Guilty: the verdicts that shamed Pitcairn Island - 31 hrs ago
TelegraphPitcairn men guilty - 32 hrs ago
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SEE ALSO:
Pitcairn facing a fragile future
25 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Rape a 'way of life' on Pitcairn
01 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bloody history of empire's last outpost
29 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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