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News Release

U.S. academic says holding Pitcairn trial without first reviewing documents would be miscarriage of justice

ANGWIN, Calif., USA, September 23, 2004 ----- A U.S. academic who directs a center about Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific Ocean, said here today it would be a miscarriage of justice if a sex abuse trial slated to begin on the island next week is not adjourned until a public review of documents that contain irregularities and possible illegalities about the case can be conducted by proper authority.

“There has been so much irregularity, so much seeming pre-agreement toward a given conclusion, so much that smacks of possible illegality demonstrated in documented form, that any trial conducted before these very serious matters are carefully studied and resolved would be a gross miscarriage of justice,” said Herbert Ford, who directs the Pitcairn Islands Study Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ford said he bases his opinion on the substance of documents that have passed between those governing Pitcairn Island from both England and New Zealand, and legal personnel asked to develop Pitcairn law or to have a part in the trial.

Ford cited the following concerns:

That a Kent Constabulary police woman, by written admission, said she got a Pitcairner on the island drunk in an effort to get him to reveal acts that might incriminate others who were being investigated in connection with the present trial.

That at the ministerial level of the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office a process of restorative justice that might have held the tiny island nation together rather than ripping it apart by the traditional trial process was rejected “even if that results in the dislocation of the community,” according to one FCO official.

Pitcairn Chief Justice Blackie held a series of meetings about the Pitcairn trial with Foreign and Commonwealth Office leadership in London as early as 2000, about which a legal counselor to the Pitcairn government warned, “This seems, on the face of it, open to misconstruction and not entirely in keeping with usual practice.”

As late as the year 2000 there was ambiguity, and seemingly a lack of consensus even among New Zealand-based Pitcairn governing personnel, as to what age constituted the “age of consent” for sexual relations on Pitcairn Island.

Because of that ambiguity, which was not known to the accused at the time, the conviction of a New Zealander for having sex with a girl of 15 years on the island is now open to possible reversal. That case, is one from which the current trial of Pitcairners who are now accused is said to stem.

Simon Moore, who is the lead prosecutor in the present trial, told Pitcairn governing personnel in 2000 that amnesty in the present case against the Pitcairn men “has its attractions.”

“The question of alternative dispute resolutions, even in the criminal law, is gaining international popularity,” wrote Crown Solicitor Moore in May of 2000 to Pitcairn’s then acting governor. “Restorative justice principles now often apply in the sentencing process and the rights of victims and their wishes are protected by statute. I believe that there is a very effective potential role for restorative justice in this case which would require those who admit their offending to be confronted by the victims and their families. I am aware that there are initiatives of this kind presently operating in England as there are in this country. In the Pitcairn Island context it would seem especially relevant.”

“The Pitcairn trial as presently being pursued, in addition to the possible incarcerating of individuals has the potential to destroy an entire indigenous people group,” said Ford, “and in written form the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said it doesn’t matter if that happens.”

“Already the United Kingdom’s open-to-the-entire-world, dogged pursuit of a traditional, destroying courtroom trial has wreaked irreparable harm to the fragile fabric of Pitcairn society. The truth of this is seen in the following quote from Steve Christian, Pitcairn’s mayor:

“‘Individuals and families are being destroyed by the waiting regarding allegations, and the situation where families and members within families have been asked to bear witness against each other.’

“Its current course in this trial - of an entire people, not just individuals - is a pitiful and wholly unnecessary overkill on the part of the United Kingdom,” particularly when other less divisive and destructive methods of the administration of justice are so readily available.

“It is hard to not believe that a destructive vindictiveness toward the Pitcairn people as a whole is present here,” said Ford. “What other motive is possible, given the almost certain death-to-Pitcairn consequences of the course the United Kingdom is following?”

Ford said he is aware of an injunction against two persons in New Zealand forbidding the release of information contained in largely government “sensitive” documents about the Pitcairn trial, but he said he has not received any of the documents quoted from in this release from those persons.

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Pitcairn Islands Study Center, 1 Angwin Ave., Angwin, CA, USA. Herbert Ford, 707-965-6625, 707-965-2047, Fax: 707-965-6504, Email: hford@puc.edu, Website: http://library.puc.edu/pitcairn

  


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