A sex trial of seven men slated to start Monday on Britain's remote Pacific colony of Pitcairn Island (official government website) is said by islanders and observers to have the potential to destroy a settlement first established over 200 years ago by mutineers from the ill-fated ship HMS Bounty, captained by William Bligh. After the 1789 mutiny, mutineers led by Fletcher Christian settled on the tiny island outcrop with a group of Tahitian women and girls. The settlement was undiscovered until 1808. Eventually brought under British jurisdiction, it survives today with a permanent population of under 50.
Although public details are sketchy and the accused have not been named, the trials are for multiple sex offenses, some of which date back decades, and were instigated after an islander complained to a visiting British policewoman several years ago. Special judges and lawyers to try the case arrived from New Zealand earlier this week (more than doubling the island's population), and a special courthouse has been constructed for the proceedings. Many islanders are concerned because the seven accused are needed to man longboats that go out to meet ships that deliver supplies to the island, which has no port. Herbert Ford, an academic who directs the California-based Pitcairn Islands Study Center issued a statement Friday saying "There has been so much irregularity. . . 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." BBC News provides background on the proceedings in a story from earlier this month (when the trial date was originally expected to be September 23).