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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Pitcairn trial to be under UK law
By Phil Mercer
BBC correspondent in Sydney

Seven men from remote Pitcairn Island, who face a number of sex-related charges, have lost a bid to be tried by their own community.

Instead, the men will be tried under British law in a court in New Zealand.

The majority of residents of the tiny dependency are descendants of sailors who staged a mutiny more than 200 years ago on board the naval ship HMS Bounty, and defence lawyers argued that the islanders severed all ties with Britain when they burned the ship.

More than a dozen men from Pitcairn Island have been accused of serious sexual offences, some against girls as young as three. A number of the allegations date back 40 years.

Lawyers for seven of the defendants challenged Britain's sovereignty over the remote island, which is governed by the British High Commissioner in New Zealand.

The motion was heard by the Pitcairn Supreme Court, which was sitting for only the second time in its history in a special session in Auckland.

The defence counsel said the accused were descendants of sailors who had escaped British rule during a mutiny in 1789 aboard HMS Bounty and had never surrendered their independence.

As a result, the hearing was told, the men were not subject to laws from Britain and should be dealt with by a court on Pitcairn.

The three judges rejected the application, insisting that the island and its residents were still governed by the British legal system.

The island was originally settled by eight mutineers from the Bounty along with six Polynesian men and 12 women.

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