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Assisting the UK's Overseas Territories: Child Sex Abuse on Pitcairn

One of our International Strategic Priorities is to ensure security and good governance of the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories.

Map of the Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands (Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno) are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pitcairn is the only inhabited island and has a steady population of around 50 people.

Did you know? Fletcher Christian and the Mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island in 1790 after the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Child sex abuse trials

In 1999, a Kent Police Officer was sent to the Island to train the Island’s Police Officer. During her stay, the Officer became aware of incidents of child sex abuse. Kent Police began a full investigation.

Because some of the accused men no longer lived on Pitcairn it became a lengthy case and trial.

The early trial hearings were held on the Island – a huge logistical challenge. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office chartered boats to ship legal teams, police, government staff, furniture, supplies, and camp beds. With accommodation and water shortages on the Island, living conditions were far from luxurious!

HM Prison Pitcairn
Police Officers, Prison Wardens and the Governor’s Representative opening HM Prison Pitcairn in November 2006

Appeal cases

The men found guilty of sex offences appealed against the decision, and to reduce the logistical problems (and costs) associated with covering the court on Pitcairn the UK and New Zealand Governments signed a treaty to set up the Pitcairn Court of Appeal in Auckland (Papakura). This court upheld the convictions.

The men appealed to the Privy Council in London. In October 2006 the Privy Council also upheld the convictions.

HMP Pitcairn

The three men were imprisoned in HMP Pitcairn, a newly built prison on the island. The UK Government employed New Zealand prison wardens to supervise the prisoners.

Two men were given Community Service Orders, and another was granted Home Detention.

There were more trials (in Auckland) in early 2007 against other Pitcairners who no longer lived on Pitcairn. Two men were convicted and chose to serve their prison sentences on Pitcairn.

The Boatshed, Pitcairn Island
The Boatshed, Pitcairn Island

Moving forward

Our role on Pitcairn is to ensure good governance and to help increase the Island’s income and self-sufficiency.

Pitcairn receives budgetary aid from the UK Government and we believe an increase in tourism is key to the Island’s sustainability.

Recent improvements include a new road, school, health centre and museum. Television, telephones and high-speed internet were also installed in September 2006 and Islanders can now make cheap-rate calls around the world.

Future developments

We're now working on projects for:

  • A breakwater near Bounty Bay harbour, to make it safer for cruise ships to land passengers on Pitcairn.
  • Wind-generated power to provide 24 hour electricity - the Island currently only has 10 hours of power a day.

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UK Overseas Territories