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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Guns to be handed in on Pitcairn
Bounty Bay, Pitcairn (Credit: Peter McHugh)
Only 45 people live on the remote island
Residents of the remote island of Pitcairn have been asked to hand in their guns, amid fears of violence ahead of a forthcoming sex abuse trial.

Seven men on the island face a total of 96 charges of sex abuse, some dating back more than 40 years.

Their trial, which will take place under British law, is due to begin on 23 September and last about six weeks.

The tiny South Pacific island has a population of 45 people, who have about 20 guns between them.

Pitcairn's governor, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Richard Fell, has asked islanders to hand in their guns to the colony's two policemen, according to a commission spokesman.

"We thought it prudent to take the guns out of the community when emotions could be running high," the spokesman told Reuters news agency.

He also said there could be a more general safety risk, because the island's population is set to swell by about 25 during the trial.

The British government plans to ship in police, a jail and court officials for the proceedings.

"There is the possibility of them wandering into shot when somebody is hunting. The island is not all that big and it is covered in vegetation, and the potential for an accident is very real," the spokesman said.

Herb Ford, head of the California-based Pitcairn Islands Study Center, told the Associated Press news agency that the governor's order had shocked islanders.

He said one woman had written to Mr Fell, saying "We are being treated as if (we) are a murdering, suicidal bunch of good for nothing sex-crazed cowboys."

The seven men charged with abuse are said to have had sex with girls under the age of 16, which is forbidden under British law.

Eighteen people have made allegations dating from six to 45 years ago.

The defendants will be tried under British law, after a court ruled earlier this year that the United Kingdom still had sovereignty over the isolated community.

The tiny volcanic island of Pitcairn, which lies between New Zealand and Peru, was first settled by mutineers from HMS Bounty in the late 1700s.

Pitcairn trial to be under UK law
19 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
'Sins of a few' trouble Pitcairn
14 Jun 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Pitcairn sex charges detailed
11 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Pacific paradise under threat
10 Apr 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Pitcairn 'threatened' by sex trial
07 Nov 02  |  Asia-Pacific

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