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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Sex charges on 'Bounty' island
Nine men from the tiny Pacific island of Pitcairn have been charged with sex crimes against their community.

The men - who represent a fifth of the island's population - will appear in court on Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing, said Brian Nicholson of the British high commission in Wellington, New Zealand, which administers the island.

A statement from the high commission said only that the charges alleged "offending of a sexual nature".

Pitcairn prosecutor Simon Moore said last year that he was bringing charges for the rape of girls as young as seven and 10, and of indecent assault against a girl as young as three.

He also said in February that further charges were expected to be laid against former Pitcairn residents now living in New Zealand.

The charges are the culmination of an inquiry by British and New Zealand police which began in early 2000 into allegations of sexual abuse on the island.

New Zealand trial

If the case goes to trial, it is likely to be held 5,000 kilometres (3,200 miles) away, in Auckland, New Zealand.

This is because many of the people involved in the trial now live in the city, and because Pitcairn is so remote and does not have the necessary infrastructure for a trial of its own.

New Zealand has passed a law allowing it to host the trial and to allow for any prison sentences handed down to be served in a New Zealand prison.

Pitcairn islanders have warned that if the trial does go ahead, it could spell the end of their community.

Pitcairn has only a handful of adult males - the minimum, the islanders say, needed to sustain its fishing industry.

The island is mostly populated by descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the accompanying Polynesians, who landed on the island in 1790, a year after the mutiny.

'Bounty' island faces sex charges
19 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Pitcairn 'threatened' by sex trial
07 Nov 02  |  Asia-Pacific

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