Thursday, October 7, 2004

Pitcairn - accused help build jail

This is a really interesting story

Child-sex accused helped build jail

By Claire Harvey, The Mercury, Tasmania

THERE are many strange things about the child sex trial on Pitcairn Island, but perhaps this is the most unusual – the seven defendants helped to build their own jail. Her Majesty's Pitcairn Island Prison, a six-bedroom kit home with barred windows and a high fence, was completed earlier this year.

The British Government, which rules Pitcairn as a dependent territory, pays the islanders $9.30 an hour for essential work such as road-mending, gardening and construction. When Governor Richard Fell decided to expand the old three-cell remand centre in preparation for this trial, he asked the Island Council if the islanders would be prepared to do the work.

"We said if you want to help build it, we'll pay for it, and if not, we perfectly understand," Mr Fell said.

"If they all said no, we would have had to have got other people in to do it. We did not force them to do it – any suggestion like that would be complete nonsense."

Next month, another odd scene will unfold. The islanders – including some defendants – will set sail from Bounty Bay in their longboat to bring ashore seven prison guards. The guards have been engaged by Britain from the New Zealand Corrections Department, in case some of the men are sentenced to jail.

They will arrive on the island like all other visitors – a 36-hour boat trip from the nearest landfall, Mangareva, and then a quick longboat trip in to Bounty Bay, the only harbour on Pitcairn.

The defendants, including Pitcairn mayor Steve Christian, face a total of 54 charges that include rape, indecent assault and gross indecency against girls as young as five. The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment – perhaps an incentive for the workmen to do a good job.

The corrections officers are scheduled to work a four-month stint on the island before being replaced by another seven Kiwi guards, said Pitcairn deputy Governor Matthew Forbes.
"We had over 150 applicants for the positions, most of whom were looking for something different, a challenge," Mr Forbes said. "We got some really good applicants, correctional officers with skills from their previous jobs."

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