Pitcairn Island mayor gets three years for child rape

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The Independent Online

They do things differently on Pitcairn Island. In London, Steve Christian would have been jailed for 10 to 15 years for raping children. Yesterday, in Britain's South Pacific outpost, he received a sentence of three years - and was told he could apply for parole after 12 months.

They do things differently on Pitcairn Island. In London, Steve Christian would have been jailed for 10 to 15 years for raping children. Yesterday, in Britain's South Pacific outpost, he received a sentence of three years - and was told he could apply for parole after 12 months.

The Chief Justice, Charles Blackie, told Christian - still mayor despite being found guilty of five rapes - that the penalties were "tailored to Pitcairn". The court had taken into account "factors unique to the island, such as its isolation, its permanent population of less than 50 people and its dependence on the manpower of its able-bodied citizens", he said.

The man who has run Pitcairn like a personal fiefdom stood straight-backed in the dock as Judge Blackie told him that the court was "impressed by your contribution to island life over the last 30 years".

The judge added that a jail sentence appropriate to England or New Zealand could have "an adverse effect on the community".

Christian, 53, one of six men being sentenced for child sex crimes yesterday, will be able to apply for home detention after nine months. Even his brief spell in the new jail that he helped to build will not begin immediately.

The verdicts will not take effect until two legal arguments about Britain's authority over Pitcairn have been heard in Auckland and London.

So tonight Christian will sleep in his own bed, in his spacious home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For the next six months, he and the other child rapists will live freely in the community where they terrorised young girls.

All six guilty men have been free on bail since they were charged. Christian spent yesterday morning working at a site where two friends, Darralyn and Turi Griffiths, are building a house. An hour later, he arrived at the courthouse, having gone home to change his shirt.

Steve Christian's son, Randy, was sentenced to six years for four rapes and five indecent assaults.

Len Brown was sentenced two years in prison for two rapes, while his son, Dave, was given community service for nine indecent assaults. Dennis Christian, who had pleaded guilty to three sexual assaults, was also given community service.

Terry Young was given a five-year jail sentence for one specimen rape and six indecent assaults.

The unresolved legal issues have left a traumatised and deeply divided community facing months of uncertainty. Mike Lupton, an Englishman married to Steve Christian's sister, Brenda, said: "The trials had to happen in order for things to be put right. But now we are in limbo. This will make it very hard to move on."

Another islander expressed the anguish of an inter-related community peopled by descendants of the Bounty mutineers. "These guys are my family. If they hurt, we all hurt," she said.

Simon Moore, the Pitcairn public prosecutor, said the trials had sent a strong signal to a society where men had abused young girls with impunity for decades. "No one will be able to say that they're beyond the reach of the law, because we've proved that they're not," he said.

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