Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004

Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004

On 30 September 2004, seven men living on Pitcairn Island (including Steve Christian, the Mayor), went on trial facing 55 charges relating to sexual offences. On 24 October, all but one of the defendants were found guilty on at least some of the charges they faced. Another six living abroad were tried on 41 further charges in a separate trial in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2005.


The trial

The trial was punctuated by legal challenges from island residents, who denied the island's colonial status, and with it Britain's judicial authority over the islands. Defence lawyers for the seven accused men claimed that British sovereignty over the islands was unconstitutional: the HMS Bounty mutineers, from whom almost all of the current island population is descended, had effectively renounced their British citizenship by committing a capital offence in the burning of the Bounty in 1790, they said. In a symbolic rejection of British rule, islanders still celebrated this act annually by burning an effigy of the Bounty, according to Paul Dacre, the Pitcairn Public defender. The defence maintained that Britain never made a formal claim to Pitcairn, and never officially informed the islanders that British legislation, such as the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, was applicable to them.

In a judgment delivered on 18 April 2004, the Pitcairn Islands Supreme Court (specially established for the purpose of the trial, consisting of New Zealand judges authorized by the British government) rejected the claim that Pitcairn was not British territory. This decision was upheld in August 2004 by the Pitcairn Court of Appeal,[1] endorsing the claim of Deputy Governor Matthew Forbes that Pitcairn was indeed British territory. A delay of the trial until the United Kingdom's Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) decided on a further appeal was rejected. The trial started on 30 September 2004.

On 12 October 2004, the Privy Council agreed to hear the case against British sovereignty on Pitcairn, but refused to suspend the trials pending the outcome of the hearing. It was announced on 18 October that upon being sentenced, the defendants would be freed on bail until the Privy Council ruled on the constitutionality of the trial. If the Privy Council had ruled in favour of the islanders (which constitutional experts considered unlikely), the trial and its conclusions would have been deemed null and void. The hearings before the Privy Council were expected to last two weeks and to be the longest in more than 100 years.[2]

Verdicts were delivered on 24 October 2004, with all but one of the defendants convicted on at least some of the charges they were facing. Those found guilty were sentenced on 29 October 2004.

Historical background

The remoteness of Pitcairn (which lies about halfway between New Zealand and Peru) had shielded the tiny population (47 in 2004) from outside scrutiny. If present admissions and allegations were to be believed, the islanders had for many decades masked a tolerance for sexual promiscuity, even among the very young, with a corresponding tacit acceptance of child sexual abuse. Three cases of imprisonment for sex with underage girls were reported in the 1950s.[3]

The first time that the outside world heard of this was after Gail Cox, a police officer from Kent, UK, who was serving a temporary assignment on Pitcairn, began uncovering allegations of sexual abuse. When a 15-year-old girl decided to press rape charges in 1999, criminal proceedings (code-named "Operation Unique") were set in motion. The charges include 21 counts of rape, 41 of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a child under 14. Over the following two years, police officers in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Norfolk Island interviewed every woman who had lived on Pitcairn in the past 20 years, as well as all of the accused. Simon Moore, an Auckland lawyer appointed Pitcairn Public Prosecutor by the British government for the purposes of the investigation, held the file.

Australian Seventh-day Adventist pastor Neville Tosen, who spent two years on Pitcairn around the turn of the millennium, said that on his arrival he had been taken aback by the conduct of the children, but had not immediately realized what was happening. "I noticed worrying signs such as inexplicable mood swings," he said. "It took me three months to realise they were being abused." Tosen tried to bring the matter before the Island Council (the legislative body which doubles as the island's court), but was rebuffed, with one Councillor telling him, '"Look, the age of consent has always been twelve and it doesn't hurt them."[4]

A study of island records confirmed anecdotal evidence that most girls had their first child between the ages of 12 and 15. "I think the girls were conditioned to accept that it was a man's world and once they turned 12, they were eligible," Tosen said. Mothers and grandmothers were resigned to the situation, telling him that their own childhood experience had been the same; they regarded it as just a part of life on Pitcairn. One grandmother wondered what all the fuss was about. Tosen was convinced, however, that the experience was very damaging to the girls. "They can't settle or form solid relationships. They did suffer, no doubt about it," he said emphatically.[4]

Tosen opined that accounts of the Pitcairners' past transformation by Christianity, once popularised in missionary tracts, told only one side of the story. He pointed out that 13 of the original settlers were murdered, many in fights over women, before John Adams, the sole surviving mutineer, pacified them with the help of the Bible. "This is the island that the gospel changed, but the changes were only superficial," he said. "Deep down, they adhered to the mutineers' mentality. They must have known that their lifestyle was unacceptable, but it was too entrenched."[4]

In 1999, a New Zealander visiting the island, Ricky Quinn, was sentenced by island magistrate Jay Warren to 100 days in prison for underage sex with a 15-year-old Pitcairn girl.[3]

A bill was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 2002 to allow a trial in New Zealand, based on Pitcairn law, to be held in 2004. However, in 2004 the accused won a legal battle to be tried in Pitcairn. Three judges, several prosecution and defence lawyers, other court staff and six journalists travelled from New Zealand to the island in late September for the seven-week trial, doubling the number of people on the island during their stay. Witnesses living abroad gave evidence remotely by a video satellite link-up.

As of April 2006, the cost of the trial amounted to NZ$14.1 million.[5]

Local reaction

Pitcairn's 47 inhabitants, almost all of whom are interrelated, were bitterly divided by the charging of most of the adult male population. Many Pitcairn Island men blamed the British police for persuading the women involved to press charges. Some of the women agreed. Under what sources close to the case said was pressure from their families, several women withdrew the charges they had laid. On 28 September 2004, Olive Christian, wife of the accused Mayor, daughter of Len Brown and mother of Randy Christian, both of whom were also among those accused, called a meeting of thirteen of the island's women, representing three generations at her home, Big Fence, to "defend" the island's menfolk. Claiming that underage sex had been accepted as a Polynesian tradition since the settlement of the island in 1790, Olive Christian said of her girlhood, "We all thought sex was like food on the table." Christian’s two daughters also said that they had both been sexually active from the age of 12, with one of them claiming that she started having sex at 13, "and I felt hot shit about it, too". They and other women present at the meeting, who endorsed their view that underage sex was normal on Pitcairn, stated emphatically that all of the alleged rape victims had been willing participants.[6] Charlene Warren, who withdrew charges against a Pitcairn man, claimed that detectives had offered her money to testify; when pressed, she clarified that the money referred to statutory compensation for victims of crime.[6] Another woman, Meralda Warren, came up with a conspiracy theory that the trial was part of a British plot to jail the community's able-bodied men and "close down" the island. "They've picked on all the viable young men, the ones who are the backbone of this place," she said.[6]

Not all women on the island were vocal defenders. Some present at the Big Fence meeting sat silent and appeared ill at ease, giving reporters the impression that they did not hold the same views.[6]

The forty-five islanders were ordered to surrender their twenty or so guns, both in view of emotions that were running high and to avoid hunting accidents "because the island's population will swell by about 25 during the trial."[7]

Many of the islanders boycotted the trial. "It's better for me not to know who's charged with what, so that I can still look them in the face as mates," one islander said. "We still have to work together to keep this place going."' While many islanders remain fearful that the outcome of the trial could sound the death-knell of the tiny state, others expressed optimism that it could mark a new beginning for Pitcairn as people previously excluded from the power structure would find themselves needed and appreciated for their skills and contributions in a new way.

Many Pitcairners were left feeling sorry for themselves, with many, including Mike Warren, saying that the whole trial was a "setup" from the start. Former Pitcairn resident Reeve Cooze expressed the sentiments of many of the islanders on Radio New Zealand when he declared, '"The Pitcairn people have been bullied."[8]

Timeline of the trial

30 September 2004

The trial opened on Pitcairn.

4 October 2004

In a written statement read out by police at the trial, a former islander (name withheld) alleged that Mayor Steve Christian had raped her twice in 1972 when she was 12, once in bushland and once in a boat moored at Bounty Bay, and had used adolescent girls as his personal harem. '"Steve seemed to take it upon himself to initiate all the girls, and it was like we were his harem," she stated. She had not informed her parents or others in the community, she said, because she '"knew nothing would be done about it because of previous experience on the island."[9]

On the same day, another woman alleged that she had been raped twice as a school girl by Steve Christian. She had been a virgin at the time of the first rape, she said.

5 October 2004

Postmaster Dennis Christian became the first defendant to plead guilty at the trial. He admitted culpability to two charges of sexual assault against a 12- to 14-year-old girl from 1972 to 1974, when he was 16 to 18, and one charge of indecent assault against another 12-year-old girl in the early 1980s, when he was in his late 20s. Detective Inspector Rob Vinson of Kent Police, who had conducted the investigation, described the confession as a "significant development," and Pitcairn public prosecutor Simon Moore expressed relief that Christian's two victims had been spared the trauma of having to give testimony.

Crown prosecutors said that they would not offer evidence for a fourth charge, because the victim wished to withdraw it and because it would not affect the sentence. Christian, meanwhile, was remanded on bail pending the completion of all seven trials.

6 October 2004

The prosecution produced a videotape of a police interview with Christian, conducted at Auckland Central police station in New Zealand in 2000. Christian denied "breaking in" four girls in their early teens or younger. (He was later accused by a fifth woman of having raped her in a similar fashion). Christian agreed that it '"could be the case" that he had sex with one girl of 13 and another of 15. He said he could not recall the specific incidents but admitted to two other sexual relationships with girls under 16, both of whom, he insisted, had consented. He emphatically denied ever having forced sex on anybody.

Christian pleaded not guilty to all charges of rape and indecent assault.

7 October 2004

The trial continued with the appearance of Jay Warren, 48, the former Magistrate of Pitcairn, and Terry Young, 45.

Warren held the office of Magistrate, which had since been renamed Mayor, for most of the 1990s. The 48-year-old Warren stood accused of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old girl in 1983. The woman (name suppressed), who was 33 at the time of the trial, testified by video link from New Zealand, where she lived, that Warren had accosted her while she was body-surfing with friends in Bounty Bay after school. The woman says she was wearing flippers, and managed to swim away. In reply to a question from Paul Dacre, the public defender, she told the court that she felt unable to tell anybody on the island about what had happened at that time. "On Pitcairn I don't recall talking about anything personal to anyone in the whole time I lived there," she added.

Warren denied the charge.

The same woman told the court that she had also been abused by Terry Young, who was accused of one rape and seven indecent assaults over a period of almost 20 years. The woman, one of four of Young's alleged victims, told the court that in 1981, when she was 10, Young had groped her as she emerged from the toilet block at the island's school, where she had been attending a community event that evening.

The court was told that Young had confessed this incident to the police. He had also confessed to having molested another 10-year-old girl during a tag game at a communal dinner (an incident he told the police had happened "accidentally"), and another girl of 13 or 14 while she was a passenger on his quad-bike. His principal victim was a girl he allegedly molested regularly over a number of years, from the time she was 7.

His confessions to the police notwithstanding, Young formally denied all charges against him in court.

8 October 2004

Dave Brown, brother-in-law to Mayor Steve Christian, became the second defendant to change his plea from innocent to guilty. Brown, a 49-year-old tractor driver, pleaded guilty to two charges of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the mid-1980s, and to a further charge of molesting a 15-year-old girl during a spear-fishing trip in 1986.[10]

The court listened to an interview recorded on Pitcairn in 2004, in which Brown told police that he had been "in love" with a 13-year-old girl, with whom he carried on a long relationship in the mid-1980s, when he was in his early 30s, and married with children. Their first sexual encounter had taken place in undergrowth behind the general store after he met her in the village square. About a month later they had sex again when they met after swimming. After the second sexual encounter, Brown told police, the girl had said that she enjoyed the sexual relationship and wanted more of it. Seeing each other more than once a month was difficult, however; otherwise it would be difficult to keep the affair secret. Despite being confronted by his wife, Lea, and despite being asked by the island's police officer on behalf of the girl's mother to leave her alone, Brown renewed his relationship with the girl after a six-month interval. "She didn't want to let go and neither did I," Brown said. The relationship continued until the girl left the island at the age of 16.[10]

At the beginning of the police investigation in 2000, the girl was one of many complainants, but she withdrew her allegations against Brown before the trial.

In the video, Brown told the police that it was "a normal part of Pitcairn life" [1] for adult men to have sex with girls of 12 or 13. "It didn't seem wrong," he said. Most islanders, including his parents, had started having sex at a young age, and each generation had followed on from the one before it. He said, however, that he had rethought the widespread acceptance of underage sex, and had concluded that it was not appropriate. Of his own affair with the 13-year-old girl, he said, "I regret it now. Times are changing. Things are moving forward, and obviously what we did then was not normal."[10]

Brown pleaded not guilty, however, to a further twelve charges, which include forcing a five-year-old girl to give him oral sex, and of indecently assaulting a girl of six or seven in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the only church on the island.

12 October 2004

As the trial resumed, a number of details came to light about the alleged misdeeds of Mayor Steve Christian. One of his alleged victims told the court that he went to her house the night his first son was born, and asked her for sex —she refused. Royal Warren, who assisted with the birth, provided Christian with an alibi: he had, she said, been present throughout his wife's labour. The 76-year-old Mrs Warren admitted that Christian had left the room at one point to go to the toilet, "but I know," she said, "that he never left the room to go and do anything harmful."

In the separate trial of Terry Young, a former resident of Pitcairn Island accused him of raping her repeatedly in her early teens. The first rape she could remember took place in 1978, when she was 12, but he had begun assaulting her indecently much earlier, she said. The rapes and assaults continued until she was 15, she testified, when she left to go to New Zealand for her education.

In a video link from New Zealand, the 38-year-old woman broke down in tears as she described an abusive childhood in which she was regularly beaten at home, treated as a slave by her parents, raped and assaulted by Young and other older men on the island, and left feeling unable to tell anybody. Most of the rapes took place in secluded areas where she went to collect firewood (her chore); she could not tell her mother that she did not want to go, for fear of being beaten. Even with the rapes, the mother “would still have made me go,” the woman said. “What she said I had to do. I had no choice but to go.”

The woman said that at first, she had tried to object to the rapes. After a while, however, she had come to realize that there was nothing she could do about it: Young would simply carry on what he was doing. She had come to the conclusion that the best of a bad job was to consent. “I just lay there and let him get it over and done with. The quicker he did it, the quicker I was able to go.”

The woman said she had been too ashamed to tell anyone, even her schoolteacher, who was from New Zealand. “It was too shameful to tell anyone, let alone someone who was not from Pitcairn,” she said. In the twenty years between her departure from Pitcairn and her being interviewed by police, she had told nobody about the abuse that had gone on, not even her husband.

Another islander told the court that she had caught another of the seven defendants, who was then in his 30s, having an affair with her 13-year-old daughter. She had told him to leave her alone. Once, she had caught him trying to climb in through her daughter's window. He fell off his ladder into the shrubs when she shouted abuse at him.

21 October 2004

Defence lawyers representing the seven accused presented their final submissions. Much of the day was dominated by the defence of Randy Christian, the 30-year-old son of Mayor Steve Christian. The younger Christian was accused of five rapes and seven indecent assaults against four women between 1988 and 1999. He was also alleged to have targeted a five- or seven-year-old girl from 1989 or 1991 onwards and to have abused her continuously over the following decade. He also admitted to having sex with an under-age girl of 11 or 12.[11]

Defence lawyer Allan Roberts claimed that Christian's relationship with the child had been consensual. The girl, who is now 20, was the one who sparked off the police inquiry four years previously when she told her mother of the abuse she had suffered. Her mother in turn told Gail Cox, the visiting British police officer. That was the first the outside world knew of the prevalence of sexual abuse on Pitcairn. Roberts, however, produced love letters written by the girl before Christian left Pitcairn for Norfolk Island, to support his claim that she had, in fact, been infatuated with Christian. According to Roberts, this infatuation continued after Christian left the island: in her statement to police, he said, she confessed to “having a crush on Randy even though he is no longer on the island.” He called her “a cold and cruel and vengeful liar who would stop at nothing to draw attention back to herself ... a woman scorned,” whose complaint to the police was nothing other than revenge for his having abandoned her.[11]

Public prosecutor Simon Moore rejected this defence, charging that Christian had exploited their ten-year age gap and his superior physical strength for his own advantage. While admitting that for a girl to have a crush on an older man was nothing out of the ordinary, and that there were few unattached young men available, Moore maintained that Christian had taken advantage of the girl's naivety, ignorance, and innocence. “He flattered her, he played her and he lured her into situations where he could do as he wished,”' Moore said, adding that it was after reading a leaflet about sexual harassment from Constable Cox that the girl had realized that Christian's treatment of her was unacceptable.[11]

The court was told that during the period in question, Christian had two girlfriends. One was a pest control officer who came to Pitcairn to rid the island of rats.[11]

Verdict and aftermath

24 October 2004 (verdicts)

On 24 October 2004, the Supreme Court convicted six of the seven accused on 35 of the 55 charges. Only Jay Warren, the former Magistrate (1990–1999) was found not guilty on all counts. See the defendants for details.

Chief Justice Charles Blackie ridiculed Mayor Steve Christian's claim that his relationship with one of his victims had been consensual. “She was young, naive and vulnerable,” Blackie said. '”She was secreted into the bushes and there the accused took advantage of her. There had been no affection, kissing or romantic connection. She did not want it to happen.”

The controversy over the trial was far from resolved. On 26 October 2004, prosecutor Simon Moore told Radio New Zealand that the charges and the verdicts were only the tip of the iceberg, accounting for only one-third of the cases police learned about when they began their investigations. He said that more charges were due to be laid involving people now living in Australia and New Zealand, but he refused to provide any further details because of “extensive name suppression orders in place.”

Moore said that some of the victims, none of whom still lived on the island, had indicated an interest in returning to Pitcairn, but they would have had to be satisfied that justice had been done and that the island was a safe place for their families.

Auckland lawyer Christopher Harder, who represented one of the accused, appealed for mercy in view of the devastation he said would be caused by the imprisonment of most of the island's able-bodied men. He put forward a proposal for the men to make a public apology and pay compensation to their victims, instead of facing imprisonment, which, he said, could mean the end of the microstate.

Professor John Connell of the University of Sydney said that if the men were imprisoned, they would have to be released temporarily whenever needed to man the longboat, without which the island could not connect with the outside world. “It would be a punishment for the whole community”' if they were not, said the South Pacific scholar. Some Islanders expressed fears that without those convicted, there would not be enough men to handle the longboat. Others, less connected with the case, noted that the defendants took steps which prevented other islanders from becoming more skilled at handling the boats. This was another example of the "power and control" problems which existed on the island.

Public Defender Paul Dacre called on the court to impose sentences in keeping with Pitcairners' unique circumstances. "We are talking about 50 people living on a rock, not 50 million in England," he said.

27 October 2004

Pending sentencing, lawyers for the six convicted pleaded for clemency, arguing that it was essential for the survival of the dependency. Only two of the six expressed regret. Dennis Christian e-mailed his principal victim to apologize and expressed his "deep remorse," the court was told, and Dave Brown made a statement through his lawyer that he “regretted any distress caused.” His father, Len Brown, refused to apologize for his own offences; his lawyer, Allan Roberts, told the court that to do so would be "fraudulent."

29 October 2004 (sentences)

The Supreme Court handed down sentences tailored, said Chief Justice Charles Blackie, to the unique conditions of Pitcairn Island. Dennis Christian and Dave Brown were sentenced to community service, apparently in recognition of the remorse they had shown at the trial. Mayor Steve Christian, Randy Christian, and Len Brown were all sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six years. (See the defendants for details). Elaborating on Chief Justice Blackie's statement, Bryan Nicholson of the British High Commission in New Zealand said, '"The penalties were tailored to Pitcairn and take into account the unique isolation, population of less than 50, and the dependence of manpower." None of the sentences were carried out until 2006, pending a rule by the Privy Council on the legal validity of British sovereignty and judicial authority on Pitcairn.

30 October 2004 (fallout)

Bryan Nicolson, a spokesman for the British High Commission in New Zealand, announced on 30 October that Governor Richard Fell had formally dismissed Steve Christian from the mayoralty, and his son, Randy, from the chairmanship of the powerful Internal Committee. The dismissal followed Christian's refusal to resign when asked to do so by Deputy Governor Matthew Forbes. Forbes had warned them that if they ignored his invitation to resign voluntarily, they would be dismissed, a warning that provoked a defiant reaction from Christian. Asserting in an e-mail to a supporter that he had "not been convicted of anything illegal," he challenged Forbes to "fuck off".

Christian's conviction and dismissal left the islanders with a power vacuum. On 8 November 2004, the Island Council named Christian's sister, Brenda, interim Mayor pending elections scheduled for 15 December 2004, which were won by Jay Warren.


Brian Michael John Young was found guilty in January of rape and indecent assault and in December was sentenced to six years and six months in prison. He was ordered returned to Pitcairn to serve out his sentence.[12]


The six convicts began their appeal in the Supreme Court, in Papakura, New Zealand, on 18 April 2005. Defence lawyers argued that as Pitcairn's colonial rulers had never enforced British law, the six men convicted of sex crimes could not have known that their acts were illegal — a claim rejected as "extraordinary" by public prosecutor Simon Moore. If true, he said, Pitcairn had been “a zone of criminal immunity” — an enclave where serious crimes could be committed with impunity.

The proceedings were relayed live to the Adamstown courthouse, on Pitcairn, by a video linkup. About twenty locals, including the accused, watched the hearing.

Crown prosecutors produced numerous old documents to refute the defence that British law had never been enforced on Pitcairn, or that the Pitcairners had never known that they were subject to it. According to the documents, the islanders had, over a period of many years, sought British advice and intervention in cases related to adultery, abortion, kleptomania, attempted murder (including a 1936 case in which a husband and wife both tried to kill each other), and even the theft of women's underwear. Crown Prosecutor Simon Mount said the charges had been referred to British authorities because they were too serious to be dealt with locally and proved that Pitcairners were fully aware of British law and of its applicability to them.

Betty Christian, the Island Secretary, broke ranks with many of her fellow Pitcairners, testifying at the Pitcairn Supreme Court hearing in Papakura that the islanders were indeed aware that they were British subjects and that British law was applicable to them. She also flatly contradicted the defence that sexual activity at a young age was considered "normal" on Pitcairn, saying that Pitcairn's values were no different from those of any other modern society.

On 24 May 2005, the Auckland court rejected the appeal of the six convicted men. It carried over their bail until their further appeal could be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in 2006.[13]

Former Pitcairn resident Shawn Brent Christian, 29, then living in Australia, announced a legal challenge to the validity of New Zealand lawyers’ and judges’ carrying out a trial in a British colony on 27 November 2005. "They are saying it should have been English judges and English lawyers doing the trial," said New Zealand lawyer Fletcher Pilditch. Christian appeared to have the support of others awaiting trial. Christian, whose alleged offences (three rapes) are said to have happened between 1994 and 1996, is the younger son of former Mayor Steve Christian.

A further appeal brought by the Public Defender was heard by the Court of Appeal on 31 January 2006. The basis of the appeal was the validity of the laws applied to the accused, with the defence arguing that British law had not been ratified on Pitcairn. “We are arguing whether the English legal system applies to these people. That is it in a nutshell,” defence lawyer Allan Roberts said.

The Pitcairn Court of Appeal dismissed this claim. Randall Christian's appeal against indecent assault of a girl aged under 13 was upheld, but that decision did not affect his sentence of six years on other charges.[14] The men appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.[15][16]

The Privy Council terminated the appeal abruptly in July 2006, saying that the argument that Pitcairn has always been self-governing was unrealistic. The final appeals for all six men failed on 30 October 2006.[17]

The defendants

The defendants who lived on the island were:

  • Stevens Raymond Christian, or Steve Christian (born January 1951), Mayor since 1999. He was charged with a total of six rapes and four indecent assaults committed between 1964 and 1975. He pleaded not guilty to all charges of rape and sexual abuse, but admitted to two sexual encounters, which he said were consensual, with underage females. Christian was convicted of five rapes and cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Still protesting his innocence and refusing to resign, he was dismissed from office on 30 October 2004 by the Governor, Richard Fell.
  • Randy Christian (born March 1974) son of Steve Christian, was Chairman of the powerful Internal Committee, which effectively made him his father's deputy. He faced five charges of rape and seven of indecent assault against four women between 1988 and 1999. He was also accused of targeting one girl from the age of five or seven, abusing her repeatedly over the next decade. He admitted to having under-age sex with a girl of 11 or 12. He was convicted of four rapes (against the same girl from the age of 10) and five indecent assault charges, but cleared of one rape and two indecent assaults. His six-year prison sentence was the severest ever handed down on Pitcairn. Governor Fell dismissed him from the chairmanship of the Internal Committee on 30 October 2004 following his refusal to resign.
  • Len Carlyle Brown (born March 1926) Steve Christian's father-in-law, was convicted of two rapes. Both were committed in a watermelon patch. Through his lawyer, Allan Roberts, Brown refused to apologize. To do so would be "fraudulent," Roberts said. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, but on account of his age, he was allowed to apply for home detention instead.
  • Dave Brown, or Len Calvin Davis Brown (born October 1954) son of Len Brown. pleaded guilty on 8 October 2004 to two charges of indecent assault against a 14-year-old girl and one charge of molesting a 15-year-old girl. He continued to deny 12 other charges, including one of forcing a 5-year-old girl to give him oral sex. Brown was found guilty of nine indecent assaults against three girls, but was cleared of four charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency. Earlier, he had told New Zealand journalist Kathy Marks that he hated reporters and was sick of their "lies." After the verdict, however, his lawyer, Charles Cato, told the court that Brown “regretted any distress caused.” He was sentenced to 400 hours' community service and was ordered to undergo counselling.
  • Postmaster Dennis Ray Christian (born 1957) pleaded guilty on 5 October 2004 to two charges of sexual assault and one of indecent assault against young girls. The court was told on 27 October 2004 that Christian had e-mailed his principal victim to apologize and express his “deep remorse.” He was sentenced to 300 hours' community service and was ordered to undergo counselling.
  • Carlisle Terry Young (born 1958) a descendant of HMS Bounty midshipman Ned Young, faced one charge of rape and seven of indecent assault over a period of almost 20 years. He was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults but was cleared of one indecent assault charge. He resented being photographed at the trial, and shoved reporter Kathy Marks aside when she tried to take his picture. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
  • Jay Warren (born July 1956) former magistrate of the Pitcairn Islands from 1990 to 1999, when his office was replaced by that of the mayor following a constitutional revision. Warren was cleared of his indecent assault charge.

As of March 2009 only one prisoner, Brian Young, was still being held in the island's jail, all the others having been granted home detention status.[18] It was reported on April 23, 2009 that Brian Young had been released on house arrest having served just over two years of his original sentence of six and a half years. It is purported that the now empty jail will be turned into a guest house.[19]


  1. ^ Queen v 7 Named Accused [2004] PNCA 1; CA 1-7 2004 (5 August 2004)
  2. ^ New Zealand Press Association, 8 June 2006
  3. ^ a b "Island of shame", Claire Harvey, The Mercury, 28 October 2004
  4. ^ a b c Marks, Kathy (23 January 2002). "The Paradise that's under a cloud". The Independent (London: Independent news and media). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/the-paradise-thats-under-a-cloud-666695.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  5. ^ Pitcairn deputy governor Matthew Forbes quoted in "Cost of Pitcairn justice tops $14m", WELHAM Keri, The Dominion Post, 19 April 2006
  6. ^ a b c d Marks, Kathy (29 September 2004). "Growing up on Pitcairn: 'We all thought sex was like food on table'". The Independent (London: Independent News and Media Ltd.). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/growing-up-on-pitcairn-we-all-thought-sex-was-like-food-on-table-547980.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  7. ^ Reuters (August 11, 2004). "Pitcairn islanders to surrender guns". New Zealand Television. http://tvnz.co.nz/content/441332. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  8. ^ "Pitcairn trial a miscarriage of justice, says former islander". The New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pitcairn-islands-sex-abuse/news/article.cfm?c_id=700&objectid=3604142. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  9. ^ Tweedie, Neil (5 Oct 2004). "Islander changes his plea to admit sex assaults". The Telegraph (London: Telegraph media group Ltd.). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/pitcairnislands/1473399/Islander-changes-his-plea-to-admit-sex-assaults.html. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  10. ^ a b c Marks, Kathy (October 9, 2004). "Pitcairn father 'fell in love' with 13-year-old". THe New Zealand Herald (APN Holdings NZ Limited). http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pitcairn-islands-sex-abuse/news/article.cfm?c_id=700&objectid=3598982. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  11. ^ a b c d Marks, Kathy (October 22, 2004). "Alleged Pitcairn sex victim was smitten, defence says". The New Zealand Herald (APN Holdings NZ Limited). http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pitcairn-islands-sex-abuse/news/article.cfm?c_id=700&objectid=3602994. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  12. ^ "Pitcairn Islander jailed on historic child sex charges". The New Zealand Herald. 5 March 2007. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pitcairn-islands/news/article.cfm?l_id=433&objectid=10427093. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  13. ^ Marks, Kathy (25 May 2005). "Pitcairners stay free till British hearing". The New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10127299. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  14. ^ Christian v R (No 2) [2006] PNCA 1 (2 March 2006)
  15. ^ "Britain seeks NZ guards for jail on Pitcairn", WELHAM Keri, The Dominion Post, 19 April 2006
  16. ^ "Appeal against Pitcairn Island sex charges fails". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 2 March 2006. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pitcairn-islands-sex-abuse/news/article.cfm?c_id=700&objectid=10370746. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  17. ^ Judgment of the Privy Council, 30 October 2006, [2006] UKPC 47, Privy Council Appeal No 109/2005
  18. ^ "Concerns about one remaining prisoner". Pitcairn Islands Study centre: News release. Pacific Union College. http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn/news/releases/news59--03-18-09.shtml. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  19. ^ "Last Pitcairn rape prisoner released". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 April 2009. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/last-pitcairn-rape-prisoner-released-20090423-afkt.html. 

Further reading

  • "Island of the damned", Nick Godwin, The Advertiser, 4 November 2006
  • "Pitcain sex trial costs mount to nearly $17M", New Zealand Press Association, 3 November 2006
  • "Pitcain islanders due to begin prison terms tomorrow", Ian Stuart, New Zealand Press Association, 3 November 2006
  • "Penalty for Pitcairn", The Southland Times, 1 November 2006
  • "NZ staff will guard Pitcairn rapists", PACNEWS, 1 November 2006
  • Kathy Marks, Lost Paradise, New York, London: Free Press, 2009, 328 pages

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