The trials of seven men on Pitcairn Island, the remote Pacific island home to descendants of HMS Bounty mutineers, were drawing to a close Thursday and judges were expected to deliver their verdicts Monday.
The cases against the men — two of whom pleaded guilty — have exposed allegations of widespread sex abuse on the tiny island between New Zealand and South America that has a permanent population of just 47.
One witness said men on the island treated women and young girls like their “harem,” but before the trials even started women still living on the island defended their menfolk, saying that while underage sex was common, it was consensual.
Prosecutors Thursday said they were pleased a video link that allowed alleged victims of sex abuse to testify from a room in Auckland, New Zealand, had worked, allowing the trials to be completed quickly. They had been slated to last up to six weeks, but have been completed in three.
“We are enormously relieved because the technology has not failed us, and we have been able to get all the evidence from all the complainants through,” Pitcairn chief prosecutor Simon Moore said, according to Television New Zealand, which has a reporter covering the trials.
Seven local men, including the island’s mayor, Steve Christian, faced trials in makeshift courtrooms in the island’s community hall. Some of the alleged offences dated back 40 years.
The fate of the men remains unclear even if they are convicted as their lawyers have been allowed to appeal against Britain’s jurisdiction over the island. That case will not be heard until next year and no prison terms will be imposed until after a ruling on jurisdiction.
Pitcairn was settled in 1790 by mutineers from the British naval ship HMS Bounty, led by seaman Fletcher Christian.
The speck of land halfway between New Zealand and Peru is just 1.6 kilometres wide and 3.2 kilometres long.