(Investigator 99, 2004 November)

Pitcairn Island, often thought of as a Pacific paradise, is now dubbed "nightmare island".

One woman said, "You get abused, you get raped. Back on Pitcairn, that's the normal way of life." (1)

On October 25 six men on this island of Seventh Day Adventists were found guilty of violent sexual abuse of young girls – the 32 charges included incest, gang rape and indecent assault.

Other accused men who have left the island have yet to be tried.

The Adventist Church is a large Christian sect that enforces the Saturday Sabbath and officially opposes all forms of unmarried sex by people.

The story of Pitcairn Island began in 1789 when sailors on the Royal Navy ship Bounty mutinied. Nine sailors together with six Polynesian men and 12 Polynesian women sailed the Bounty to Pitcairn where they settled.

The 4.3-square-kilometer island in the SE Pacific thus became one of the most isolated inhabited places on Earth.

The colonists used the Bounty's copy of the Bible to formulate laws including a Saturday Sabbath. Contact with the outside world started in 1808 after the visit of an American ship.

Pitcairn became a British territory. The Statesman's Yearbook for 1973/1974 says, "Pitcairn was brought within the jurisdiction of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific in 1898 and transferred to the Governor of Fiji in 1952."

Meanwhile in the USA, in the 1850s, the Seventh Day Adventist sect started. The SDA's is the largest sect that developed out of the "great disappointment" of 1844 when about 200,000 people awaited Christ’s Second Coming.

With the Sabbath as a common belief the Pitcairn islanders became Seventh Day Adventists.

SDA's often used the existence of a whole island of Sabbath believers as leverage in debates with other religions they considered it an endorsement of their faith.

The endorsement has now gone sour. This year, 2004, the British Government shipped in judges, lawyers, journalists and police and set up the Pitcairn Supreme Court. Seven men of Pitcairn’s population of 47 faced charges of rape, carnal knowledge and indecent assault with six found guilty.

Sex-centred crime is nothing new on Pitcairn. When the wife of one of the original mutineer-settlers died in the 1790s he confiscated the wife of one of the Polynesian men. This started a chain of violence that wiped out all of the island’s adult males. Also, in the 1950s, three men served prison-terms for getting underage girls pregnant.

The current defendants claimed they did nothing wrong because the age for consensual sex under Pitcairn law is 12. But the British Government says British law is what applies and that says the age of consent is 16!

On the first day of the trial a woman claimed, "Women and girls were routinely raped and abused and many were still prepared to lie to protect the men…" (2) Another witness said she was raped from the age of three, "until I left that godforsaken island." (3)

Pitcairn’s mayor Steve Christian – called by prosecutors "the leader of the pack" "systematically raped virgins of 11 and 12 telling them he was initiating them into sex." (1)

One woman testified that the girls were treated, "like we were in his harem."

Child sexual abuse is rampant not just on Pitcairn but everywhere. Some estimates suggest there were over 1,000 million (i.e. over 1 billion) victims worldwide in the 20th-century.

Recently an Internet child pornography racket was exposed. The Advertiser called it a "Worldwide web of sex fiends". (4) In Australia alone thousands may face charges.

Some islanders claim the Pitcairn trial is Britain's plan to shut the island down. However, one of the few males not accused said, "This is about right and wrong… Wrong is an adult fooling around with a 12-year-old girl." (5)

A new jail has been built with British pay on Pitcairn by the very men who may one day inhabit it.

However, for the present no sentence will be carried out. Next year defence lawyers will argue before the Privy Council, Britain's highest appeal court, that Britain never established legal jurisdiction over Pitcairn or informed the islanders that they were under British law.

(1) The Advertiser 2004, October 26, p. 19
(2) The Advertiser 2004, October 1, p. 7
(3) The Australian 2004, October 5, p. 4
(4) The Advertiser 2004, October 2, p. 10
(5) The Advertiser 2004, October 9, p. 36