Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Pitcairn sex trial - postmaster pleads guilty

The extraordinary trial at the small island of Pitcairn continues. And, the postmaster has pleaded guilty. The AP report is as follows.

Man pleads guilty in Pitcairn Island sex abuse trial
Associated Press

The postmaster of tiny Pitcairn Island pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl, the first outcome in a series of trials at a makeshift court set up on this remote Pacific outpost to handle charges of sex abuse dating back decades.

The defendant, Dennis Christian, is one of seven men on trial in the isolated British territory, which is home to descendants of the 18th century Bounty mutineers in a community whose entire year-round population numbers only 47.

Christian, 49, pleaded guilty to three of four charges against him and was released on bail until sentencing at an unspecified date, the court ruled on Monday _ Tuesday in New Zealand, from where some of the alleged victims testified by video link. The court dismissed a fourth charge against Dennis Christian after prosecutors offered no evidence.

"We are pleased," prosecutor Christine Gordon told Television New Zealand. "It saves the two complainants from going through the trauma of having to give evidence in court."
Pitcairn, roughly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, has been reeling from unprecedented attention since the trials opened last week with more than half the island's adult males on trial, including the island's mayor Steve Christian.

Most of Pitcairn's female residents have come out in defense of their men, insisting that underage sex was part of the island's culture and that none of them had been forced into it.
But prosecutors painted a picture of the island's men treating women and girls like a harem.
"Hopefully it (Dennis Christian's guilty plea) is a sign of some acceptance by some on this island of events that have been taking place," said Rob Vinson, a British investigator, to Television New Zealand.

Dennis Christian, a relative of the mayor, admitted in court to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old girl in the early 1980s. The court suppressed details about the other two charges to which he pleaded guilty. Police and witness statements on Sunday accused Steve Christian, a direct descendant of mutineer Fletcher Christian, of sexually initiating all the girls on the island.
Steve Christian, 53, pleaded innocent to six charges of rape and four of indecent assault on four women in 1964-75.

A woman testified from the New Zealand city of Auckland that Christian raped her twice, once while on a motorbike ride and again in one of the island's boats. Defense attorneys suggested to the woman that she had consented to sex with Christian, which she denied.

The trials of three Pitcairn men are underway in two makeshift courtrooms in the island's community hall. Seven men face a total of 55 sex abuse charges going back as long as 40 years. The other four trials have not yet begun.

The trials, held under British law before New Zealand judges, are expected to take six weeks.
Some islanders claim that if the accused are convicted and imprisoned, they will no longer have enough men to crew longboats _ the only way to bring vital supplies to the island from passing ships.

There is no airstrip or port on the rocky, volcanic Pitcairn Islands, which have a total land area of 47 square kilometers (18 square miles). Only one is inhabited.

Radio New Zealand correspondent Sue Ingram on Pitcairn Island contributed to this report for The Associated Press.

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