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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Pitcairn women blast sex trials
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Pitcairn islanders
Some of the island's women have spoken out in defence of the men
Some women on the British Pacific colony of Pitcairn have criticised sex abuse trials due to get under way on the remote island on Wednesday.

Seven men, or half the adult male population of the tiny community, are facing more than 50 charges.

At a public meeting on Pitcairn, female residents claimed it was customary for girls on the island to have sex as young as 12.

Some alleged victims of abuse had been coerced into testifying, they said.

The accused include the island's mayor, Steve Christian, and his son Randy.

Also facing charges are Len Brown, his son Dave, Jay Warren, Terry Young and Dennis Christian.

Many of the women of Pitcairn, one of the world's most remote communities, believe that the charges against the seven are unfair.

'Ingrained culture'

The wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of some of the accused have spoken out to declare the men's innocence.

lawyers on Pitcairn island
Judges and lawyers have travelled from New Zealand to Pitcairn
They have insisted that while under-age sex was a traditional part of island life, it was consensual.

Prosecutors have said there is an ingrained culture of using children for sex on the island, a tiny volcanic speck that lies half-way between New Zealand and Peru.

The seven men are charged with various offences including rape. They are expected to mount a defence based on a challenge to Britain's authority over the island.

Judges, lawyers and other court staff have made the long journey from New Zealand for the trial.

The islanders are descendents of mutineers who seized control of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty in 1789.

They landed on the uninhabited island of Pitcairn a year later with a group of Polynesian men and women and remained undiscovered for almost 20 years.

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