Island men found guilty of sex abuse

Key points

• Child sex abuse culture is exposed

• Island women defended men

• Victims’ relief at guilty verdicts

Key quote

"Feelings on the island understandably will be mixed but [the verdicts are] a very important step in bringing a conclusion to these matters." - BRIAN NICOLSON, BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION

Story in full SIX men were today convicted of a string of sex attacks on the remote Pacific island of Pitcairn.

The trials exposed a culture of sexual abuse of children on the tiny home of descendants of the 18th-century Bounty mutineers.

Among those convicted was the Pitcairn Island mayor, Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendant of mutiny leader Fletcher Christian. He was cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape but convicted of five other rapes of girls as young as 12.

The verdicts were read out by judges from New Zealand who sat in makeshift courts in the Pitcairn community hall for the trials, which started on September 30. Sentences were expected to be announced later this week.

One of the six men had earlier pleaded guilty, while another man was cleared at the trial.

The men were tried for a string of 51 sex attacks dating back 40 years on women and girls on the island, which has a population of just 47.

During the trials, prosecutors painted a picture of a male-dominated society in which underage sex and assaults on children as young as five was commonplace.

Steve Christian’s son, Randy Christian, was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assaults but cleared of one rape and two indecent assaults.

Another man, Len Brown, 78, was convicted of two rapes. His son, Dave Brown, was convicted of nine indecent assaults and cleared of four indecent assaults and two charges of gross indecency.

Dennis Christian was convicted of one indecent assault and two sexual assaults he pleaded guilty to at trial.

Terry Young was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults but cleared of one indecent assault.

Jay Warren, the island’s magistrate, was found innocent of indecent assault.

His wife, Carol Warren, reacted angrily despite her husband being cleared.

"His name’s been dragged through the mud," she said. "The whole world now sees him as a child molester. My God, if they only knew him."

Before the trials even started, women living on the island came out in defence of their men, saying that while underage sex did happen, it was consensual.

None of the victims of abuse still live on the island, and they all testified via a video link from Auckland, New Zealand. A New Zealand police officer who informed eight women who testified of the verdicts said they welcomed the outcome.

"They were all extremely relieved - as if a lifetime of emotional turmoil has been concluded," police constable Karen Vaughan said.

The convicted men could be sentenced to prison in the island’s new cell block. But they will continue to be free pending the outcome of an appeal by defence lawyers against Britain’s jurisdiction over the tiny island.

Bryan Nicolson of the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand, said:

"Feelings on the island understandably will be mixed but [the verdicts are] a very important step in bringing a conclusion to these matters."

Islanders have warned that if men are incarcerated, they likely will no longer be able to crew a long boat that serves as the island’s lifeline - transporting freight and passengers to and from passing ships that cannot dock along the rocky shore.

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