Supreme Court of the Pitcairn Islands
The Supreme Court of the Pitcairn Islands was a special court set up to try the Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004. As the Pitcairns have a minimal population (approximately 50) they have never had an extensive formal legal system. Up to the time of the charges leading to this trial, few island residents had ever been formally charged with serious crimes in recent years.
Owing to the lack of a formal Pitcairn Island judiciary and the absence of legally trained Pitcairners, a court composed of judges from New Zealand was appointed to hear the trial with the approval of the British government. The tribunal's first decision was whether to accept the defence claim that the Pitcairn Islands were not in fact legally British territory and had not been such since at least the time that the original settlers, the mutineers of the Bounty, burned the vessel in a symbolic (and, from the defence viewpoint, actual) rejection of further British sovereignty and rule. The Supreme Court ruled that the Pitcairns were in fact British territory and were generally internationally recognised to be such and that the trial was thus legal.
The Court later (October 23) found the defendants to be guilty of the sexual offences alleged against them, which created turmoil as the defendants included the islands' mayor, Steve Christian, direct descendant of leading Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian. Steve Christian's sister was then installed as mayor until a new election could be held for a new island government.
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