19 Oct 2004

Seven Pitcairn Islanders await verdicts on sex abuse charges

11:11 am on 19 October 2004

Seven Pitcairn Islanders on trial on sexual abuse charges will not be jailed even if convicted until another court rules whether British law should apply on the island.

Seven of the island's 12 adult men are charged with a total of 55 sex crimes, some dating back 40 years.

Television New Zealand, one of six media organisations allowed on the island, says the defence team had claimed that British criminal law was not properly published nor policed on Pitcairn.

It said the court, made up of three New Zealand lower court judges, was to have heard the argument this week but had decided to shift the hearing on this issue back to New Zealand.

The court, while it is still on the island, will issue verdicts next week, but any prison sentences will be suspended pending the court sittings in New Zealand sometime next year.