Six men from the remote South Pacific island of Pitcairn have been convicted of raping and indecently assaulting girls as young as 12. A seventh man has been cleared. The charges, dating back more than 40 years, followed a report by a British policewoman stationed on the island in 1999. Some defendants had argued consensual sex with girls aged 12 and 13 was traditional on Pitcairn, a British colony lying roughly half way between Peru and New Zealand.
But their victims, now adults, testified via video-link from New Zealand, saying they had been raped at will. A British official said the tradition of underage sex was not relevant in rape cases. The wife of one defendant, however, was distraught after the verdict: “His name’s been dragged through the mud, the whole world now sees him as a child-molester, and my God if only they knew that man, it’s far from the truth,” she said.
The men are set to appeal, arguing that the British government, which brought the prosecutions, has no jurisdiction over Pitcairn. The island’s 47 inhabitants are descendents of the sailors who staged a mutiny on the British naval ship HMS Bounty in 1789.