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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Sex abuse trials open on Pitcairn
Pitcairn islanders
Some of the island's women have spoken out in defence of the men
The tiny UK Pacific colony of Pitcairn has begun trying seven men on sex abuse charges which highlight a local culture of underage sex.

The seven, who make up half the local adult male population, face more than 50 charges of rape or indecent assault.

New Zealand prosecutors say there is an ingrained culture of using children for sex on Pitcairn, famous for its link to the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Local women have argued the practice is an island tradition and consensual.

They said that some of the alleged victims of abuse had been coerced into testifying.

The alleged victims are all now off the island and will testify by video link from New Zealand.

'Unfair'

The charges stem from 1999 when an islander told a visiting British policewoman she had been sexually abused.

Since then, new laws including a child protection act have been enacted and police and social workers have been sent to the island.

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.

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

They defendants are expected to mount a defence based on a challenge to Britain's authority over the island.

Bounty link

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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SEE ALSO:
Bloody history of empire's last outpost
27 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Pitcairn trial officials arrive
23 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
A rock and a hard place
08 Sep 04  |  Magazine
Guns to be handed in on Pitcairn
11 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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