Thirteen men -- four in New Zealand, seven on Pitcairn and two in Australia -- faced trial for raping underage girls as far back as forty years ago. The island had no courthouse, no jail, and no accommodation for the legal staff required for the trial. The men being tried helped to build their prison. But in the wake of this discussion on MoFi recently (and this comment) the question of cultural and moral relativism seemed interesting. Several times, the accused men stated that their behaviour was perfectly acceptable on the island. Regardless of their sovereignty, is it reasonable? The men were found guilty, and four were sentenced to prison, with probable permission to leave when they are needed on the island to man the longboats that row out to meet container ships and collect supplies. One of the men was the Pitcairn mayor, Steven Christian, and he has, unsurprisingly, been sacked.
The Pitcairns are one of the most isolated settlements in the world. They lie midway between New Zealand and Peru and were settled famously after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. (Photo tour here.) The primary family on Pitcairn is still the Christian family, who claim to be descended from Fletcher Christian. The islands are officially a British colony, but as far as the settlers and their descendants are concerned, they are an independent and self-governing nation. So the three-and-a-half year criminal investigation and subsequent trial of several Pitcairn men for indecent assault and rape has opened up serious issues for the residents and the British Crown.