Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Pitcairn Islanders lose final appeal against convictions

AP , LONDON

Six men from Pitcairn Island lost their final appeal on Monday against convictions for sex offenses against women and girls on the remote Pacific home of descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers.

Britain's Privy Council, the final court of appeal for many British territories and former colonies, rejected the defendants' argument that English law did not apply on the tiny, central Pacific island, inhabited by fewer than 100 people.

Former Pitcairn mayor Steve Christian and five others were convicted in October 2004 on charges including rape and indecent assault of mostly underage girls over a 40-year period.

Four of the men face prison terms after their appeals against the sex abuse convictions were dismissed.

They had been released pending the outcome of the appeal but will now have to serve their sentences.

"Despite the difficulties of prosecuting serious crimes such as these in such a remote location, it is important that child sex offenders are dealt with by the courts," said Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister responsible for issues involving overseas territories. "The decision today opens the way for this remote community to move forward."

Pitcairn was the refuge of men who mutinied aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. Some settled on Pitcairn along with Tahitian brides.

Pitcairn Deputy Governor Matthew Forbes said the Pitcairn Supreme Court, based in New Zealand, will shortly issue warrants for the men to begin their prison terms in the island's new prison.

"I expect within days they will start serving sentences," he told New Zealand's National Radio.

He said a specially constructed prison has been built on Pitcairn "so that the prisoners can serve time ... where they committed the crime and where their families were as well."

The Privy Council ruling had been expected for quite some time "so hopefully the community can look beyond this and start to move forward," he said.

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