Mayor of Pitcairn island charged with child porn offences

The mayor of Pitcairn Island, the British territory in the South Pacific convulsed by a child sexual abuse scandal in recent years, has been charged with multiple counts of possessing child pornography.

Michael Warren, 46, was arrested by a New Zealand police officer posted to the island, an isolated chunk of rock populated largely by descendants of the Bounty mutineers. More than 1,000 pornographic images and videos featuring children were allegedly found on his computers.

At high-profile trials held on the island and in New Zealand in 2004-06, nine Pitcairners were convicted of raping and sexually assaulting girls as young as seven. A British police investigation had uncovered abuse dating back to the 1950s, with 30 locals named as offenders.

Elected mayor three years ago, Mr Warren was not involved in that case, but he was a vociferous supporter of the men, denouncing the prosecution as "a set-up" by the British. Those convicted included his predecessor as community leader, Steve Christian, who was convicted of five rapes, and Steve's two sons, Randy and Shawn, who gang-raped a 10-year-old.

Mr Warren has been charged with 20 representative counts of possessing indecent photographs and five of possessing pornographic images, videos and documents, all relating to children, the New Zealand Herald reported. A court hearing was held by video-link last week, connecting Mr Warren in Pitcairn with his lawyer in Wellington and a prosecutor and magistrate in Auckland.

Since the rape trials, Britain has pumped nearly £20m into the island, home to 57 people and accessible only by boat. Roads and landing facilities have been upgraded, telephones and satellite television have been installed, and efforts are being made to establish a tourism industry.

Outsiders, though, question whether the culture of child abuse – which some islanders believe took root in 1790, when Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers landed with their kidnapped Polynesian brides – has been erased. "That doesn't happen overnight; it requires generational change," a British official connected with Pitcairn said recently.

Five of the convicted men served time in a local jail, but by British standards their sentences were derisory. Steve Christian was behind bars for just nine months; the worst offender, Brian Young, who repeatedly raped two girls aged seven and nine, was out after 18 months.

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