Steve Christian, the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the Bounty mutineer Fletcher Chris-tian, last week began a prison sentence that rates as one of the strangest in the world.
With his son Randy, and a third man, Terry Young, Christian started a three-year term for sexually assaulting young girls on the tiny island of Pitcairn. Together with three other islanders who were also found guilty but escaped prison sentences, the convicts represent almost half the adult male population of this mile-wide lump of South Pacific rock.
Teams of warders, ferried in from New Zealand, will now guard the prisoners over the next few years, while British Ministry of Defense police have gone to Pitcairn to ensure law and order is maintained on the remote piece of UK territory. Given that Pitcairn's population is only 47, such a presence now makes it the most heavily policed place on Earth.
Christian, whose ancestor Fletcher led the Bounty mutiny and founded the renegade colony on Pitcairn, was originally accused with six other men of taking part in the systematic sexual assaults on girls as young as eight.
The case emerged after a teenage girl told a visiting British policeman she had been raped.
After a five-year British investigation, 32 women who had grown up on Pitcairn said they had been sexually abused. Thirty-one men, some now dead, were accused. Seven women alone named Steve Christian, the island's mayor, as their attacker. Eventually he was among seven men who were tried on Pitcairn in front of three New Zealand judges.
The trial revealed a disturbing picture of systematic sexual abuse. According to one victim, Jacqui Christian, life on the island was initially pleasant for children.
"We could go nice places we wanted to after school, riding our bikes or flying kites," she said.
But by the time girls reached 11 or 12, life took on a darker, far less pleasant tone.
"Being a girl, we always tried to avoid being anywhere with an adult man on our own. The older you got, you tried to get smarter about being aware about where you were and who you were with, working out who was safe to be around and who wasn't. No one spoke out until the police came," she said.
However, a different version of events is given by other islanders, including Steve Christian. There was no regular rape on Pitcairn, he says. There was "only consensual under-age sex."
LIFE AS USUAL
"What I am being accused of is nothing for what has happened on Pitcairn, in our parents' day, in their parents' day. Don't let anyone run off with the idea that in Pitcairn's history we were the bad ones. No, we were the good ones," he said.
The island was settled in 1790 by nine Bounty mutineers who had brought Tahitian women, and a few men, with them. The mutineers claimed most of the women for themselves, however, and within a few years, inflamed passions brought anarchy to the community.
All but one of the mutineers were killed, with Fletcher being clubbed to death by Tahitians. However, he was survived by his son, Thursday October Christian, the ancestor of almost everybody called Christian on the island today.
Six of the seven accused were found guilty and three were jailed: Steve Christian, 55, got three years, his son Randy, 32, received six, and Terry Young got five. Len Brown,79, received home detention.
Two weeks ago, the Privy Council -- a final Court of Appeal in London for a number of Commonwealth countries -- ruled that the verdicts should stand. A few days later, the three men began their prison terms, though their time in jail will not be much of a privation.
The men built their own prison, which was transported, in kit form, from Britain and was specially constructed to house them. It turned out to be the most luxurious building on the island. It even has plumbing, a Pitcairn extravagance.
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