20 Sep 2004

Pitcairn Islanders hand in guns for trial

3:34 pm on 20 September 2004

Pitcairn Islanders have succumbed to a firearm ban in preparation for the trial of seven men facing sex charges.

Officials say that residents handed in all 20 firearms registered on the island by last Friday's deadline, despite some initial objections.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Wellington, Bryan Nicolson, says most of the guns were rifles and the police were concerned about the safety of the 25 extra people who will be arriving for the trial.

Mr Nicolson says rifles are used on the island for killing goats and sharks and for shooting down breadfruit from trees and it was feared that visitors could inadvertentely walk into the line of fire.

He says the island's council, which represents its 47 residents, moved to quell objections to the idea from several locals.

"There were some objections from people who felt that it was a breach of their rights to be asked to hand them in. But in the end the island council discussed it at length and people agreed that it probably was a prudent measure, given the number of people who are going to be on the island."

Mr Nicolson says that ban will last for the duration of the trial, which is expected to be six weeks.