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Meet the Christians of Pitcairn Island

1 October 2004

If the young boys in Lord of the Flies had been joined by a gang of shipwrecked girls, they might have settled down, grown up and called themselves Pitcairners. Situated between Peru and New Zealand, adrift in the South Pacific, the British colony of Pitcairn Island is instead inhabited by the descendants of history's most celebrated mutineer, Fletcher Christian.

In the 1930s there were over 200 of them. Now there are 47. And last week half of the adult male population went on trial accused of over 50 charges relating to sex with little girls. Of the seven men on trial, three of them are Christians. Dennis, Steve, and Steve's son, Randy. That's right, a man called Randy Christian could soon be making his way onto the sex-offenders list. Kuh. Only on Pitcairn Island.

Some of the female islanders however, are not happy. According to BBC News, 'The wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of some of the accused have spoken out to declare the men's innocence.' Such is the nature of family life on the island that this may well have been just two women speaking out. The women have insisted that sex with girls as young as 12 is perfectly natural for
Pitcairners. Prosecutors have confirmed this, stating that the island has 'an ingrained culture of using children for sex'. Yet many islanders would claim that the adults are no more using the children for sex as the children are using the adults for sex.

Indeed they have plumped for the Humbert Humbert Defence and are claiming that the sex was always consensual. The women also claim that the girls testifying against the menfolk have been coerced into doing so. It's all deeply disturbing. Pitcairn Island is minuscule, and very little of it is habitable. Travel writer Dea Birkett spent a year there. She wrote a book about it. 'I came from one of the biggest cities in the world, London, and I went to the smallest, most remote village in the world,' she wrote, 'and I was surprised to find it difficult.' Right. 'You can't go anywhere,' she continues. 'You can't go away for a weekend, it's a 10-day boat journey to New Zealand if there's a ship, which there isn't. The furthest you can go is for a 15 minute walk.'

To make matters worse, there isn't a great deal of money kicking about, and nothing on which to spend what little there is. The economy of the island is based upon postage stamps and fine honey, as well as the sale of woven baskets and carved curios which are sold by mail order as well as to passing ships. Hence the steady erosion of the population and rather shambolic state of Adamstown, the island's only settlement. Apparently there isn't even enough money to buy a surface for the road from the landing point to the settlement, the rather discouragingly entitled Hill of Difficulty. This economic disarray is another reason the 'unnecessary' trials are causing consternation.

Because justice doesn't come cheap. Millions of pounds have been spent on policemen, social workers, investigators and judges, as well as their accommodation, video-conferencing equipment and even a commode for the presiding judge, who was deemed too dignified to do his business in the cliff-top latrines known as 'long drops'. There just seems something a little unsatisfactory about building a remand home for suspected child-fuckers in a community that doesn't even have a video shop. Or a doctor. Or roads.

Perhaps the really tragic part of this whole sorry tale however is that as part of their defence, the seven accused men are set to challenge Britain's authority over the desolate volcanic crag. For shame. It may be a pestilent doomed hotbed of eerily-tasty honey and child abuse, but Pitcairn Island is ours. It's British. One of the last remaining outposts of the Empire and we want it to stay that way.

Now don't make us invade you, because we bloody well will if we have to.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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