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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 03:28 GMT 04:28 UK
Pitcairn sex trial men sentenced
Steve Christian (left), the island's mayor, with his lawyer
Island mayor Steve Christian (left), was jailed for three years
Four men convicted of multiple sex offences on the remote British colony of Pitcairn have received jail sentences of between two and six years.

Two others have been ordered to carry out community service following the convictions earlier this week.

Chief Justice Charles Blackie said harsher punishments could have an adverse effect on the island as the men are vital to its daily life.

The men will remain free pending the outcome of appeals by their lawyers.

The appeals, to begin next year, will challenge Britain's sovereignty over the tiny South Pacific island, which has a population of just 47.

The men had been charged with a string of sex offences, including rape and indecent assault, on girls as young as 12.

Their supporters had condemned the prosecutions, saying consensual sex with young girls was commonplace.

Suicide attempts

Trials, lasting three weeks, were held in makeshift courtrooms set up in the island's community hall. Three judges sent from New Zealand presided over the hearings.

Pitcairn's position in mid-Pacific
The court was told that young girls on the island deserved respect and protection, and statements from victims detailed depression, insomnia and suicide attempts.

If the men's sentences are upheld, they will serve time in a cell block they helped to build on the island.

Those sentenced on Friday were:

  • The island's mayor Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendant of Bounty mutineer leader Fletcher Christian. He was given three years in prison after being convicted of five rapes

  • His son, Randy Christian, who was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assault charges, received six years in prison

  • Len Brown, 78, who was convicted of two rapes, was sentenced to two years in jail

  • His son Dave Brown, who was found guilty of nine indecent assaults, was sentenced to community service

  • Terry Young, who was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults, received five years in prison

  • Dennis Christian, 49, the postmaster and another descendant of Fletcher Christian, pleaded guilty at the trial to one indecent assault and two sexual assault charges. He received community service.

A seventh man, the island's magistrate Jay Warren, was cleared of indecent assault.

Residents on the island, which has a permanent population of just 47, fear that prison terms will prevent the men from crewing a longboat that is Pitcairn's lifeline.

Vital supplies

It ferries vital supplies like fuel and food to the island from passing ships that cannot dock along its rocky coastline.

It has been said the men could be released when they are needed to man the boats.

Pitcairn, which is between Peru and New Zealand, was the refuge of men involved in the Mutiny on the Bounty.

They cast Captain William Bligh adrift with his supporters in 1789 and headed to the island to hide from the Navy.

Despite being a British colony, defence lawyers are expected to argue before the Privy Council in London that Britain does not have jurisdiction over Pitcairn.

They have already argued that the Bounty mutineers stopped being British subjects when they burnt the ship.

Another legal challenge will also be heard in New Zealand in February.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the sentences will affect the Island



SEE ALSO:
Pitcairn facing a fragile future
25 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Rape a 'way of life' on Pitcairn
01 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bloody history of empire's last outpost
29 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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