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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Pitcairn man admits sex charge
Landing jetty at Pitcairn (archive picture)
Tiny, isolated Pitcairn Island has a population of 47
One of seven men facing a total of 55 charges of sex offences against young girls on the Pacific island of Pitcairn has changed his plea to guilty.

Dennis Christian admitted sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

The court suppressed details of two other charges he pleaded guilty to while a further charge against him was dropped after no evidence was offered.

Christian, 49, the UK colony's postmaster, was remanded on bail to be sentenced at the end of the hearings.

Chief prosecutor Simon Moore said he was pleased Christian's victims had been spared the distress of giving evidence against him.

Nine women, now living off the island, had been due to testify via satellite video link from Auckland.

Leading investigator Detective Inspector Rob Vinson, of Kent Police, said: "I have only the greatest admiration for their bravery and courage."

Christian's guilty plea would be a relief for his victims and was a "significant development", he added.

"Hopefully, it will lead to some acceptance on the island of things that have taken place."

Pitcairn Island was inhabited by mutineers who seized control of the British naval ship HMS Bounty in 1789.

Christian, a descendant of mutineer Fletcher Christian, wore an HMS Bounty T-shirt in court.

He left court with Brenda Christian - his distant cousin and the island's local police officer.

Legal challenge

The seven separate trials were being held concurrently in order to complete them in the shortest possible time.

A further six men from Pitcairn, who now live in Australia and New Zealand, are due to face court next year charged with 41 sex offences.

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

They argue that although Pitcairn - as a British overseas territory - is theoretically subject to English law, consensual underage sex, involving girls aged 12 or 13, is a traditional part of island life.

Some local women have agreed, saying some of the alleged victims of abuse had been coerced into testifying.

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

Prosecutors say girls were treated as sexual playthings and rape was a way of life on the island.

  • This story is based on pool copy from the Daily Telegraph.

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