Pitcairn sex trial lawyers caught in fancy dress

The credibility of senior legal officials prosecuting a notorious sex abuse case on Pitcairn Island hung in the balance yesterday after photographs were published of them wearing false breasts and a red tinsel wig.

The pictures were taken on a charter boat transporting the officials home to New Zealand from the tiny South Pacific island, a British dependent territory, where they had charged nine men with rape and indecent assault offences.

The officials included Simon Moore, an Auckland lawyer appointed Pitcairn public prosecutor for the case by British authorities. Mr Moore said yesterday that the boat's captain had pressed them to don the costume as part of a ship ritual, and it would have been impolite to refuse. "It was a couple of minutes of light-heartedness in the middle of the ocean."

Paul Dacre, the lawyer for the nine men, said he would discuss with his clients whether to take legal action. Islanders have already complained about the lawyers' conduct. Mr Dacre described the situation as "complex and unusual".

Mr Moore and his deputy, Christine Gordon, and Gray Cameron, a barrister who has been appointed as the presiding magistrate, travelled to Pitcairn in April. The decision to charge the nine men, one-fifth of the population, was taken after a lengthy investigation into claims of sexual abuse of women and girls on the island stretching back decades.

A total of 14 people have been charged with sex crimes on Pitcairn, a volcanic rock halfway between New Zealand and Peru which was settled by Fletcher Christian and his fellow Bounty mutineers in 1790.

In the context of the rape allegations, the lawyers' behaviour seems astonishing. It is not clear who released the photographs, which were apparently taken by the boat's crew. The precise nature of the "ritual" has not been clarified. Seafarers are familiar with a costumed ritual often performed when a ship crosses the Equator. But the significance of the wig and false breasts is a mystery.

Pitcairn, among the most isolated spots in the world, requires a week-long voyage from New Zealand. Even then, visitors have to wait offshore for islanders to ferry them in.

Mr Moore, who as Auckland's Crown solicitor has prosecuted some of New Zealand's most high-profile criminal cases, apologised. He said he took part "in the spirit of the moment" while passengers and crew were enjoying pre-dinner drinks on the deck of the boat, the MV Braveheart.

A crew member fetched the costume from below deck, he said. "The captain pressed others to wear the wig and plastic breasts which, for the crew, had assumed something of a ritual with charter parties ... Magistrate Cameron, Ms Gordon and I put the wig and plastic breasts on for a brief period of time."

A Pitcairn resident, Marelda Warren, said she found the behaviour and photographs offensive. "It's degrading ­ to women, to everyone, to what the prosecutors represent. They are adults and they could easily have said no."

The British high commission in Wellington, which administers Pitcairn, said it had taken legal advice and did not believe the photographs compromised the prosecution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before