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"Diogo está esquecido no WC, junto aos lavatórios. As palavras saíam-lhe dos lábios, sem cor, em sussurros. Quando os olhos dele se enevoaram, como os de um afogado, alguém decidiu chamar a ambulância. No trajecto para o hospital, "Arrepio" ouve as versões dos outros sobre o que se teria passado: "Disseram-me que ele tinha sido praxado, que fizera umas 70 flexões. Pensei: 'Ele se calhar fez alguma e foi castigado.' Mas não liguei as coisas. Os mais velhos falavam de indigestão." Certo e seguro, porque há registos indesmentíveis, é a hora a que Diogo deu entrada no Hospital de Famalicão, a uns metros da universidade, em coma profundo. Eram exactamente 22h51."
Este é um dos detalhes da história trágica e repugnante de um homicídio impune levado a cabo na Universidade Lusíada de Famalicão e relatado pela revista "Grande Reportagem" numa das suas edições mais recentes. A história merece ser lida, sobretudo pelo retrato que dá de um mundo sinistro e mafioso que se esconde por detrás das tradições académicas e da instituição das tunas. Em poucas palavras, os factos indiciam que um jovem aluno de Arquitectura foi espancado até à morte, por razões tão ferozmente frívolas como a circunstância de aparentemente pretender abandonar a sua ligação à tuna daquele estabelecimento de ensino, vontade mal aceite, como se verificou, pelos sicários que integravam a hierarquia da organização.
A violência gratuita provocou uma morte absurda para a qual as autoridades policiais não conseguiram encontrar responsáveis que fossem levados perante os tribunais. E o principal obstáculo para o apuramento da verdade foi precisamente o facto de ninguém, entre os que presenciaram a arrepiante cena, se ter disposto a revelar aquilo que sabe, numa teia de cumplicidades destinada a encobrir um crime grave. Uma universidade é suposta ser um local em que os alunos completam a sua formação literária e humana e de onde sairão preparados para assumir plenamente os deveres, obrigações e direitos decorrentes da sua integração numa sociedade necessitada de quem ajude a zelar pelos valores essenciais que a enquadram. Mas há algo que parece falhar redondamente neste campo.
As tunas, com os seus rituais de praxe, são escolas adequadas para o desenvolvimento de um autoritarismo cobarde, onde vence a mentalidade sórdida dos medíocres, perante a passividade generalizada de quem tem sobre os ombros a tarefa de assegurar a boa qualidade do ambiente em que os estudantes vivem o seu quotidiano. O caso de Diogo será o mais trágico mas não é o único que testemunha os mais diversos géneros de humilhações impostos aos seus pares por tribos que, embora floresçam um pouco por tudo o que são instituições do ensino superior, parecem viver ainda orgulhosamente nos tempos dos homens das cavernas. Pergunta-se: será que ninguém, das reitorias ao Governo, será capaz de colocar um ponto final na livre actuação desta gente que pouco mais merece do que o epíteto de javardos
A demissão de Fernando Lima do cargo de director do "Diário de Notícias" é um episódio que não deixa boa imagem dos responsáveis do grupo PT e do seu braço empresarial para o sector dos "media". Durante semanas a fio correram rumores nos meios jornalísticos de que a direcção daquele jornal iria ser objecto de uma "remodelação". Citavam-se, até, nomes possíveis para o cargo e, entre estes, os de candidatos que teriam já sido contactados para vir a exercer aquelas funções. Mas os persistentes "boatos" foram sendo categoricamente desmentidos por quem tem a responsabilidade de assumir decisões daquela natureza no interior do grupo Lusomundo.
Perante a situação, Fernando Lima chegou a afirmar que Luís Delgado e Mário Bettencourt Resendes, presidente e vice-presidente da Global Notícias, respectivamente, lhe haviam garantido que não iria haver alterações no corpo directivo do "DN". E adiantou recentemente, em declarações ao "Expresso", não acreditar que aqueles dois gestores lhe tivessem mentido sobre tão importante matéria. Para confirmar que, aparentemente, nada se passava, Miguel Horta e Costa, presidente da Portugal Telecom, declarou também, em entrevista ao "Diário Económico", que aqueles dois gestores não lhe haviam apresentado qualquer proposta.
Certamente que, depois de todo este afã destinado a colocar cobro aos rumores que pareciam não passar disso mesmo, Fernando Lima terá ficado espantado com o facto de Clara Ferreira Alves ter revelado publicamente a recusa de um convite para a direcção do jornal, situação que estava a ser negociada precisamente enquanto ao antigo assessor de Cavaco Silva e Martins da Cruz eram prestadas certezas de que tudo continuaria na mesma. Fernando Lima terá sido vítima da ingenuidade que caracteriza os homens sérios. E, também, do desprezo que, neste caso concreto, os diversos responsáveis do grupo que detém o "DN" demonstraram nutrir pelo mais elementar sentido de dignidade.
A mobilidade de quem diariamente tem de deslocar-se no interior de Lisboa é fortemente prejudicada pelo facto de a rede de metropolitano ser curta e não chegar a zonas residenciais importantes. Bairros que têm uma densidade populacional relevante vêem a oferta de serviços reduzida a opções como o autocarro ou o táxi, meios que, somados ao recurso ao transporte individual, agravam as condições de circulação, com prejuízos elevados sobre a eficiência da economia e a qualidade de vida da cidade. Trata-se do resultado de uma aposta historicamente tímida na expansão do "metro" e que apenas nos últimos anos ganhou algum fôlego.
A grande dependência de Portugal do abastecimento de petróleo é um forte motivo para se adoptar uma visão estratégica que ajude a mudar hábitos e a diminuir a pressão da procura sobre uma fonte de energia finita e altamente sensível aos humores da conjuntura internacional. Já era este o caminho aconselhável desde o primeiro choque petrolífero, em 1973, mas a escassez de recursos e a fixação de outras prioridades foram adiando o crescimento de um meio de transporte que, nas grandes metrópoles mundiais, é uma alternativa extremamente competitiva e eficaz para satisfazer as necessidades de quem nelas habita ou trabalha.
Durante o Governo socialista, a aposta foi no sentido de fazer chegar o metropolitano mais longe, até aos arredores de Lisboa, tendo por objectivo aliviar o entupimento dos acessos à cidade, que constitui um verdadeiro calvário para quem, no dia-a-dia, tem de entrar e sair enfrentando as longas filas de trânsito que se acumulam nas principais artérias. Seguramente que se Lisboa dispusesse de uma rede de dimensão proporcional às que se podem encontrar em Londres ou Paris que o tempo e dinheiro poupados diariamente nas deslocações para o emprego constituiriam uma oportunidade de libertação de meios necessários à resolução de outros problemas.
Perante o volume dos investimentos exigidos, o actual Executivo optou por mudar de agulha. O objectivo, agora anunciado, será o de permitir a ligação entre diferentes linhas de "metro" existentes, o que, no futuro, irá levar este meio de transporte urbano a bairros históricos até agora negligenciados. Mais vale tarde do que nunca, é o que pode afirmar-se sobre o novo plano que a empresa responsável por esta matéria está actualmente a estudar. E, já agora, acrescente-se que, dado o facto de as novas estruturas envolverem a construção de túneis destinados a atravessar as colinas de Lisboa, se espera que a má experiência do Terreiro do Paço tenha servido de lição. Se Lisboa vai brevemente ser transformada num estaleiro, então que esse custo seja compensado por uma engenharia de qualidade. Jornalista
António Caldeira, 40 anos, professor do ensino superior, natural de Alcobaça, foi constituído arguido na sequência da publicação de diversos textos, num blogue da sua autoria, sobre o processo Casa Pia. Ouvido ontem no Tribunal de Alcobaça, foi constituído arguido pela prática do crime de desobediência simples.
Apesar de estar impedido de prestar declarações sobre o processo, António Caldeira considera estar a ser vítima de um acto de censura e sente que a sua liberdade de expressão está a ser posta em causa. No entanto, garante não se sentir intimidado, pelo que promete continuar a utilizar o blogue www.deportugalprofundo.blogspot.com para dar a sua opinião sobre assuntos sobre os quais sempre escreveu.
A censura é precisamente o tema que escolheu na sua última crónica, que está on line com a data de quarta-feira, em que relata a visita que recebeu às 7horas desse dia do procurador-adjunto do Ministério Público e de dois agentes da Polícia Judiciária de Leiria. O mandado de captura permitiu-lhes revistar toda a sua casa e apreender o computador que António Caldeira utilizava não só para escrever as suas crónicas sobre o processo Casa Pia, como para guardar a sua tese de doutoramento, lições, exames, notas, documentos profissionais e pessoais.
"Pretendem conhecer a origem de alguns papéis. Respondo que foram coisas que me surgiram. O procurador-adjunto solicita-me, após ler os meus direitos e deveres processuais, que assine um documento de constituição como arguido e outro com o termo de identidade e residência", conta António Caldeira no seu blog. Simultaneamente, a casa da mãe do docente do ensino superior também foi "passada a pente fino", tendo sido evado do quarto de hóspedes "um computador velho, sem ligação à Internet".
Além deste relato, António Caldeira tem diversa informação sobre o processo Casa Pia no seu blog, nomeadamente um relatório do SIS sobre pedofilia, datado de 1999, que pôs on line na semana passada e do qual diz ter retirado referências a pessoas e locais precisos para não prejudicar o trabalho da polícia. Alexandra Barata
SYDNEY - Four Pitcairn Island men were today sentenced by a British court to prison terms ranging from two to six years for raping underage girls on the remote South Pacific island.
Two other island men convicted of indecently assaulting girls were ordered to perform hundreds of hours of community service and to undergo counselling.
The sentences were tailored to Pitcairn's unique environment, said British Judge Charles Blackie in sentencing the descendants of the 18th century Bounty mutineers.
The guilty men had argued that underage sex had been an island tradition since the mutineers arrived with their Tahitian women in 1790.
"The penalties were tailored to Pitcairn and take into account the unique isolation, population of less than 50, and the dependence of manpower," said Bryan Nicolson, spokesman for the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand.
The sentences will not be carried out until legal challenges over Britain's jurisdiction over Pitcairn are heard in 2005.
Islanders fear the Pitcairn community, with a population of only 47, will not survive if the men are jailed. Many of the men operate the island's only boats, which are lifelines to the outside world, ferrying in essential supplies.
Pitcairn mayor Steve Christian, found guilty of five rapes including that of a 12-year-old girl, was sentenced to three years jail.
Christian, 53, a descendant of Fletcher Christian who led the Bounty mutiny in 1789, was the "leader of the pack" on the island and believed he had a right to have sex with young girls, the prosecution told the court during the trial.
His 30-year-old son Randy Christian, guilty of four rapes and five indecent assaults, was sentenced to six years.
Len Brown, 78, guilty of two rapes, was sentenced to two years, but can apply for home detention on the island.
His son Dave Brown, who pleaded guilty to indecent assaults, was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service and to attend counselling. Dennis Christian, Steve Christian's cousin, who pleaded guilty to indecent and sexual assaults, was ordered to perform 300 hours community service and attend counselling.
Terry Young, convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults, was sentenced to five years.
Jay Warren, Pitcairn's former magistrate, was found not guilty of indecent assault.
The charges against the men, which date back more than 40 years, followed a report by a British policewoman stationed on the island in 1999.
Their victims, now adults who testified via video from New Zealand, said they were treated as "sex things" as girls and raped at will under banyan trees or in garden sheds on Pitcairn.
The Pitcairn men are challenging Britain's right to prosecute them, arguing that British sovereignty ended when the mutineers sank the Bounty off the island in 1790.
They will present their case to the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for Britain's overseas territories. The case is set down for 2005 and, if the appeal is upheld, the verdicts would be overturned.
In a second legal challenge, the men's lawyers argue that Britain never promulgated the under-age sex law even if it does have jurisdiction.
In New Zealand and other parts of the world the trial on Pitcairn Island has been followed with a sense of fascination and horror. Fascination because anything to do with that lonely refuge of the Bounty mutineers has its own fascination, and horror because, while the sexual abuse of young girls is sickening enough anywhere, it seems particularly frightful in such a tiny, enclosed community. When offending of this kind occurs over such a long period in a place as intimate and isolated as Pitcairn, it becomes harder to regard the offenders as a criminal minority. The community must have known what was going on for a long time and those who remained must have decided to live with it.
Fortunately, several women who left the island decided not to accept the abuse they had suffered as children and their testimony has brought convictions against six men, one or two of them who could previously have been described as pillars of the community. The women testified they had been indecently assaulted and raped as young as 10 as some sort of sick sexual initiation. But it was more than that. The girls were raped casually, almost routinely; one of them testified that it happened to her every time she went for firewood.
The evidence heard by the New Zealand judges could lead anyone to wonder whether something more than ordinary criminality was happening there. It is tempting to write off Pitcairn as a place beyond the orbit of civilised law, where men reverted to animal instincts and provide us with some appalling lesson about the inclinations of human nature. But Pitcairn in other respects seems not to lack a sense of law and order. Nobody in modern times has been murdered there. Property seems to be well recognised and secure. People go about their allotted tasks. One of the accused continued to ferry people and goods to the island while the trial was under way.
Reporters covering the trial have written of the air of unreality pervading Pitcairners' attitude to the court set up in their midst by outsiders. Few of the locals attended the proceedings and outside sitting hours the bailed accused could all be found going about their lives as if nothing had happened and nothing was going to change. And even now that six of them have been convicted, the guilty remain free awaiting sentence and resting their hopes on a legal challenge to Britain's jurisdiction over the island. Unless that challenge succeeds the six are facing lengthy prison terms, probably in Britain or New Zealand. It would bizarre to confine them to the jail they have built for themselves on the island.
It has been said that the removal of six men from a community of just 47 could be fatal for the island's survival. But some in that community say otherwise. Others, they say, can steer the longboat and perform the ordinary roles of those convicted. The more serious question is whether Pitcairn can remain a community as lightly policed as has obviously been the case. If Britain's jurisdiction is confirmed by the court action, then the Government in London will be obliged to see that young women are a good deal safer there than they have been.
No country can be expected to go to unlimited expense to police a community of just 47 people who choose to live in such isolation, and countries of Britain's type do not deny their citizens the right to live wherever they choose. But if the Pitcairn community relies on financial support from Britain, that is a lever that could legitimately be used. It must be hoped, though, that a community on Pitcairn can survive this ordeal. Their forbears survived a noted incident in history and the mutineers' South Pacific island has its own place in the imagination of the English-speaking world. Under the spotlight of this trial the island has lost much of its lustre. It has discovered that outsiders care for the wellbeing of young women there, regardless of what perverted practices have been quietly accepted. One way or another Pitcairn will be monitored more closely now.
Six men - one-eighth of the population of a remote British colony - were yesterday convicted of sex crimes stretching back for at least 40 years. Kathy Marks reports from a community in shock
26 October 2004
One by one, they stood in the dock, all large men of imposing build. Until recently, they had acted like kings, swaggering around their tiny empire. Yesterday, in a sweltering courtroom on Pitcairn Island, they were exposed as bullies, rapists and abusers of children. Five men, including the island's mayor, Steve Christian, were found guilty after one of the most extraordinary cases in British criminal history. A sixth, Dennis Christian, had already entered a guilty plea. Only one Pitcairner, Jay Warren, left court without a blemish, cleared of indecently assaulting a young girl at picturesque Bounty Bay.
The defendants were among 31 men named as abusers by women who had grown up in the remote British dependency during the past half-century. Seven of those women testified by video link from Auckland, and the three judges - shipped in from New Zealand, along with lawyers and court officials - believed them, almost without exception.
The verdicts were a resounding affirmation for the witnesses, who resisted years of family and community pressure to withdraw their complaints. They also vindicated the work of Kent Police detectives, sent to Pitcairn in 2000 to investigate one allegation, only to uncover systematic abuse of young girls that dated back at least 40 years.
Detective Inspector Robert Vinson, the chief investigating officer, said the judgements "sent a strong message that the abuse of children is not acceptable in any culture, anywhere, and Pitcairn Island is no exception".
The verdict was the dramatic climax to a month of harrowing evidence about life on a South Pacific island romanticised for its links with the Bounty mutiny. Three generations of Pitcairn men stood in the dock, and all three generations - including Len Brown, 78 and barefoot - were found culpable.
Rivulets of sweat ran down the face of Steve Christian, the island's charismatic tribal chieftain, as Chief Justice Charles Blackie pronounced him guilty of five rapes. As a young man, Christian, now 53, assumed the right to sexually initiate girls of 12 or 13, who then became members of his personal "harem". Randy, taller than his father and broad as a rugby prop, sweated equally profusely as he too saw prison loom. He was found guilty of four rapes and five indecent assaults. Randy was the "young cub" who emulated his father - the natural heir of a family that ruled Pitcairn with an iron grip while preying on its most vulnerable inhabitants. Like father, like son. Steve Christian raped a 12-year-old girl under a banyan tree while two friends held her down. Twenty years later, Randy pinned down a 10-year-old in a banana grove so that a friend could rape her. Then they swapped places and Randy took his turn. Randy's brother, Sean, was cautioned by police in 1996 about a consensual liaison with a 12-year-old girl.
For years, Steve Christian was the face of Pitcairn, travelling the world to promote the island. After he was charged, and while still enjoying anonymity, he went to New York and addressed the UN committee on decolonisation. No one outside Pitcairn knew that, in his heyday, it was he who set the tone for men who felt they could rape young girls with impunity.
Ironically, it was his son's actions that led to the culture of endemic abuse being uncovered. Randy's principal victim told a friend, who told her mother, and the complaint ended up with Gail Cox, a Kent police constable stationed temporarily on Pitcairn in 1999. Ms Cox, the first British officer ever posted to Pitcairn, began an inquiry that turned into a massive investigation. Detectives travelled the world several times, interviewing women who had grown up on the island and now live in New Zealand, Australia, Norfolk Island and England. As they went, "we got disclosure after disclosure ... it was staggering," said one officer.
While the women's testimony suggests that few men from the past three generations are untainted, anecdotal evidence indicates the abuse began even further back. One middle-aged woman on Pitcairn claims "it was the same in my great-grandparents' day". Another recalls her father asserting that girls of 12 needed to be "broken in" - the precise phrase used to describe Steve Christian's alleged conduct a generation later. "That was the belief, and I think it's always been there," she says of her father's attitude.
When did it start? Many people believe the abuse took root in 1790, when Fletcher Christian and his men abducted a group of Tahitian women and sailed with them to Pitcairn. The early years of the community were marked by brutality and violence, as well as fights over women.
By the time an American sealer arrived 18 years later, all but one of the mutineers, John Adams, were dead. Adams was surrounded by women and children who all called him "Father". In the ensuing years, Pitcairn always had a dominant male figure. Today that man is Steve Christian.
Some believe the mutineers' mentality still prevails. With Pitcairn left to its own devices for decades by British administrators, the men were able to do as they pleased. They lived in an isolated, male-dominated society and were accountable to no one.
Asked why the six guilty men did what they did, one source replies: "Because they could. Because that's the way it was. There was a power base of influential men, and no one was going to go against them." At the centre of that power base was Steve Christian, head of a so-called "inner circle" of men who - at least until now - have run the island between them. Nothing happens without the say-so of "the boys", and they control the longboats, the umbilical cord that links Pitcairn with the outside world. All of those men have passed through the dock in Adamstown. Indeed, before a court order suppressing their identities was lifted, one observer noted that anyone curious to know their names needed only to "look in the back of the longboat".
Over the long years of abuse, the victims had no one to tell. Their assailants included magistrates and police officers, while their own male relatives were, allegedly, abusing young girls themselves. A few parents, it is said, even pushed their daughters in the direction of influential men. Some girls suffered blighted childhoods in which they were abused by half a dozen men. They could not tell, and they could not leave - at least until they went to school in New Zealand in their mid-teens. Some have never returned, and never will.
While the men abused, the women - including the mothers of some victims - colluded. And when Pitcairn's silent victims finally found a voice, thanks to Ms Cox, it was the girls who were blamed for speaking out rather than the men who abused them. One middle-aged woman calls her daughter, who was allegedly raped at 12 by a man in his 30s, a "silly idiot" for making a complaint. "She knew what she was doing," the mother says. "She wanted it as much as him."
The rapes and molestations took place in every conceivable situation. Girls were assaulted during spear-fishing trips and games of hide and seek, on quad bikes and at children's parties. Every scenic spot on Pitcairn is a crime site. Aute Valley, Garnett's Ridge, The Hollow, Hulianda - postcard-pretty places with quaint names, all defiled by men who used their superior strength and age to force themselves on girls who had barely achieved puberty.
For Steve Christian and his cronies, sex was about power. For others, such as the old men who groped little girls opportunistically, it meant fleeting gratification. And for others, the abuse stemmed, perhaps, from their frustration at the limited pool of women on a 2.5 mile-square lump of rock in the middle of the Pacific. Even family members were not immune. The court heard allegations of incest.
Small wonder that many visitors remarked on the sexual precocity of Pitcairn's children, who - according to one woman - simulated sex with each other from the age of five. But even the trend for girls to have babies from the age of 12, confirmed by historical records, did not shake British administrators out of their torpor.
One woman, now 51 and still deeply traumatised, described a nightmare childhood of repeated assaults. "That's the way it is on Pitcairn," she told the court. "You get abused, you get raped. It's a normal way of life on Pitcairn." The witnesses quashed the myth, perpetuated by relatives of the defendants, that prosecutors targeted men engaged in consensual under-age sex. They painted a picture of a dysfunctional society where men raped young girls almost casually. Many of the women had bottled up the abuse for decades, disclosing it only when approached by police.
And yesterday came the verdicts. Len Brown twice raped a teenager in a watermelon patch. Dave Brown, his 49-year-old son, carried out six indecent assaults. Terry Young, 46, raped a 12-year-old girl every week for years, assaulting her every time she went out to collect firewood. All six of the guilty men will be sentenced on Thursday, but they will remain free on bail until legal argument about the legitimacy of the trials has been heard in Auckland and London next year. Until then, their convictions will not be formally entered.
The verdicts left the fractious and bitterly divided community in shock. Few of the 47 islanders had stepped inside court to hear the evidence. None of the six men commented afterwards. Steve Christian, who cracked a joke on his way into court, departed stony-faced. Dave Brown was in tears. Despite the legal delays, it seems certain that at least three - and possibly all six - will serve sentences in the imposing new prison that all seven helped build.
The Chief Justice, Charles Blackie, poured scorn on Steve Christian's claim that his victims consented. Commenting on one girl, he said: "She was 12 years old. He was 21. She was young, naive and vulnerable. She was secreted into the bushes and there the accused took advantage of her. There had been no affection, kissing or romantic connection. She did not want it to happen." There cannot have been a single adult on the island who did not know what was allegedly going on through the years. Yet little was said, and nothing was done.
The verdicts will leave a power vacuum on Pitcairn, with both Steve Christian and Randy, who is chairman of a key island committee, under pressure to resign. Steve Christian's sister, Brenda, is planning to run for mayor in council elections next month.
While the defendants' relatives have warned that Pitcairn will collapse if so many able-bodied men are jailed, islanders unconnected with the case disagree. They say there will still be enough men to crew the longboats and carry out other communal work. They regard the trials as a necessary healing process that will enable Pitcairn to survive and move forward.
Mike Christian, an Englishman married to Brenda Christian, said: "This is a watershed. We have to make sure of that. We have to make the island safe for children."
THE GUILTY MEN
Steve Christian , the island's mayor, who claims to be a direct descendant of the 'Bounty' mutineer leader Fletcher Christian, was convicted of five rapes and cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape.
His son, Randy Christian , was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assault charges, but cleared of one rape and two indecent assaults.
Len Brown, 78 was convicted of two rapes.
His son Dave Brown, was found guilty of nine indecent assaults, but was cleared of four charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency.
Terry Young was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults but was cleared of one indecent assault charge.
Dennis Christian pleaded guilty at the trial to one indecent assault and two sexual assault charges.
Jay Warren the island's magistrate, was cleared of indecent assault.
27 October 2004 23:30
25 October 2004
Six Pitcairn islanders were convicted today of a string of sex attacks, following trials that exposed a culture of abuse on the remote British Pacific territory, home to descendants of the 18th-century Bounty mutineers.
Among those convicted was the Pitcairn Island mayor, Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendant of mutiny leader Fletcher Christian. He was cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape but convicted of five other rapes, said New Zealand's TVNZ television network.
The verdicts were read out by judges sent to the island from New Zealand who sat in makeshift courts in the Pitcairn community hall for the trials, which started on September 30. Sentences are expected to be announced later this week.
The men were tried for a string of 51 sex attacks dating back up to 40 years on women and girls on the island, which has a permanent population of just 47. During the trials, prosecutors painted a picture of a male-dominated society in which underage sex was commonplace.
Steve Christian's son, Randy, was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assaults but cleared of one rape and two indecent assault charges.
Another man, 78-year-old Len Brown, was convicted of two rapes. His son, Dave, was convicted of nine indecent assaults and cleared of four indecent assaults and two charges of gross indecency.
Dennis Christian was convicted of one indecent assault and two sexual assaults he had pleaded guilty to at trial.
Terry Young was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults but cleared of one indecent assault.
Jay Warren, the island's magistrate, was found not guilty of indecent assault.
Before the trials started, women living on the island came out in defence of their men, saying that while underage sex did happen, it was consensual.
None of the victims of abuse still lives on the island. They all testified via a video link from the northern New Zealand city of Auckland.
The convicted men could be sentenced to prison time in the island's newly-built cell block. But they will continue to be free pending the outcome of an appeal by defence lawyers against Britain's jurisdiction over the tiny island. That case is expected to be heard next year in New Zealand.
Islanders have warned that if men are incarcerated, they will probably no longer be able to crew a longboat that serves as the island's lifeline - transporting freight and passengers to and from passing ships that cannot dock anywhere along the rocky shore.
During the trials, prosecutor Christine Gordon said Dave Brown assaulted one girl in the island's Seventh Day Adventist church and another during a fishing trip along the island's rugged coast.
"Young girls were available to him if and when he chose," TVNZ reported Gordon as saying.
The abuse went on for decades, prosecutors said. Police launched an investigation after one victim told a visiting British policewoman about the abuse in 1999.
The Pitcairn Islands are a group of five rocky volcanic outcrops - only the largest of which is inhabited - with a combined area of just 18 square miles. They are 9,250 miles from London, in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Peru.
Bryan Nicolson of the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand, urged islanders to now put the process behind them.
"Feelings on the island understandably will be mixed but [the verdicts are] a very important step in bringing a conclusion to these matters so that Pitcairn can look to the future," he said.
22.10.2004 | Acredito que todos estejam munidos das melhores intenções, mas cada vez mais me preocupa o poder que têm certos professores e articulistas de abrir fogo pela culatra quando miram suas canetas – ou suas penas de ganso, a julgar pela velhice de forma e conteúdo dos recados que apregoam – nos perigos que tocaiam nossa pobre língua indefesa em cada curva do caminho da floresta globalizada que leva à casa da vovozinha lusitana.
Outro dia esbarrei num artigo do imortal Tarcísio Padilha, ex-presidente da Academia Brasileira de Letras, publicado pelo jornal “O Globo” há algum tempo, em que ele afirma ser “manifesto o descalabro com que se vem tratando a bela língua que herdamos dos portugueses”. E explica: “A chamada invasão do inglês em muitos idiomas vem assinalando a presença de palavras e expressões resultantes do extraordinário avanço da tecnologia, que alcança níveis paroxísticos no grande vizinho do Norte”.
Fiquei pensando: o que será mais ameaçador para a saúde lingüística de um povo? O bombardeio de seu vocabulário por palavras e expressões importadas de uma língua estrangeira, essa “tragédia” que parece tirar o sono de Padilha, ou o fascínio que sente um membro tão destacado de sua elite intelectual, caso do próprio Padilha, por lugares-comuns escandalosos como “a bela língua que herdamos dos portugueses” ou “o grande vizinho do Norte”?
Em outra passagem do artigo, o ex-presidente da ABL aponta mais um inimigo de nosso idioma, este, infelizmente, endógeno mesmo: “Avulta em tal quadro negro uma nova língua que invade os nossos lares: a das letras das músicas que promanam da novidade do momento, o funk”. Letras de música que promanam? Isso mesmo: terceira pessoa do plural do verbo “promanar” – sinônimo de “proceder”, “derivar”.
E mais uma vez fiquei pensativo. O que será mais nocivo para a boa relação dos brasileiros com sua língua materna? O coloquialismo tantas vezes cafajeste e raso, mas sempre comunicativo, de versos como “queria que você tivesse/ o cabelo bom para não passar henê”? Ou o hábito bacharelesco da escolha vocabular afetada e bolorenta, que põe no caminho dos leitores de jornal pedregulhos indecifráveis como “promanar” e “obviar” (este um verbo colhido em outro artigo do mesmo Padilha, que o dicionário nos ensina ser sinônimo do prosaico “remediar”)?
Faz lembrar Rubem Braga gozando o livro “Enriqueça o seu vocabulário”, de Aurélio Buarque de Holanda Ferreira, numa crônica de 1966: “Aprendi, por exemplo, que a calhandra grinfa ou trissa, o pato gracita, o cisne arensa, o camelo blatera, a raposa regouga, o pavão pupila, a rola turturina e a cegonha glotera”. Braga nunca precisou usar nenhuma dessas palavras raras – com a óbvia exceção do texto aqui citado – para fazer mais pela saúde do português, como cronista, do que gerações de filólogos hirsutos. Se pedissem ao povo que escolhesse, absurdamente, entre Rubem e Aurélio, de que lado vocês acham que ele ficaria?
São dúvidas sinceras. Não vou zombar da angústia que tantos letrados brasileiros sentem diante de nosso quadro educacional desanimador, de nosso horror à leitura, da moda de macaquear o inglês que pega bem em tantos setores de nossa classe média. Seria louco se zombasse disso, pois a angústia é minha também. O que me preocupa é a insinuação, contida em artigos como o de Padilha, de que a saída está no passado. Parecem dizer: quando éramos todos parnasianos, quando se dava à gramática normativa uma aura de Bíblia Sagrada, quando a malta ignorante não tinha voz nem vez, estávamos em situação melhor.
A verdade é que nunca estivemos em situação melhor. No tempo em que “promanar” e “obviar” eram empregados impunemente em artigos de jornal, o analfabetismo assolava mais de 80% da população brasileira. Alguém aí vai confessar que tem saudade?
Por JOSÉ MANUEL FERNANDESEDITORIAL
Sexta-feira, 22 de Outubro de 2004
braço-de-ferro, real ou aparente, entre Durão Barroso e a esquerda do Parlamento Europeu mostra, em primeiro lugar, duas coisas: primeiro, que a sua nomeação nunca foi bem vista nem bem aceite por esse sector do Parlamento por razões que, como se tornou claro nas audições a que se submeteu, têm pouco a ver com política e o futuro da União e muito mais a ver com as divisões que permanecem na Europa sobre as relações transatlânticas e a crise do Iraque; segundo, que os deputados europeus estão determinados a mostrar que existem e têm peso, julgando que têm um mandato idêntico ao dos deputados nacionais - o que é irrealista, disparatado, não corresponde aos níveis de participação registados nas últimas eleições e, sobretudo, não contribuiu nem para resolver os problemas de "défice democrático", nem para aproximar os cidadãos das instituições europeias.
Deixando de lado o debate sobre as competências ou incompetências dos comissários mais fracos, as propostas de compromisso feitas por Barrospo ou as polémicas sobre as opiniões morais do comissário italiano Buttiglione - curiosamente aquilo que devia ser discutido, a imigração, não só porque essa é uma das suas futuras competências e se trata de uma área onde as suas posições são realmente controversas, foram subalternizadas -, é bom perceber o que estará em causa na próxima votação de investidura. Porque o que está em causa é a hipótese de a Europa comprometer o seu futuro e cometer "hara-kiri".
É bom ser claro. A arquitectura institucional europeia, com ou sem novo Tratado Constitucional, necessita de uma Comissão Europeia forte. Sobretudo se os países pequenos não quiserem ser esmagados pela lógica dos maiores que têm mais peso no Parlamento e na contagem dos votos no Conselho Europeu. Enfraquecer a Comissão Europeia neste momento, fazê-lo com base em objectivos políticos mesquinhos, quando não sectários, não fortalece o Parlamento Europeu: paralisa a União Europeia. Chumbá-la, como alguns deputados que passam por europeístas sugerem, é virtualmente garantir que o essencial - os referendos que terão lugar no próximo ano, o crucial processo de negociação com a Turquia, a possibilidade de a União retomar a iniciativa política e conquistar um espaço na arena internacional - estará comprometido. Talvez para sempre.
Os deputados ao Parlamento Europeu podem ter a ilusão de que integram o único órgão da União escolhido por voto directo e isso lhes dá uma especial responsabilidade e protagonismo. Enganam-se, pois não só muitos deles foram eleitos por motivos domésticos que nada têm a ver com opções em matéria de políticas europeias, como as suas funções são pior percebidas pelos cidadãos europeus do que as exercidas quer pelo Conselho, quer pela Comissão. Não será por se porem em bicos de pés que prestigiarão o órgão de que fazem parte. Apenas reforçarão o que já está mal na arquitectura da UE.
E é bom que não nos enganemos. A Europa integra nações e é no espaço das nações que a democracia se expressa pois existe identificação entre governantes e governados. O resto é pouco mais do que uma ilusão que, com paciência e bom senso, talvez um dia se altere. Pelo que era bom que o Parlamento fosse prudente e sensato. Algo que alguns dos líderes parlamentares, a avaliar pelas suas declarações, não têm sido.
Primeiro-ministro quer levar dívida da saúde dos Açores a conselho de ministros
O primeiro- ministro, Pedro Santana Lopes, prometeu ontem à noite nos Açores um aumento para os funcionários públicos, em 2005, acima da taxa da inflação, o aumento das pensões e uma diminuição do IRS.
A poucos dias de apresentar o Orçamento de Estado para 2005, na próxima semana, Santana Lopes esteve esta noite numa acção de campanha da "Coligação Açores" (PSD/CDS-PP) na ilha Terceira, onde deixou promessas de resolução de problemas das ilhas e sugeriu que 2005 será um ano melhor para os portugueses.
Garantindo que o orçamento não será de "facilitismo" e que manterá o tecto dos três por cento nas contas públicas, o primeiro-ministro frisou que 2005 será o ano de poder aumentar "todos os funcionários públicos" e com um aumento que faça face à inflação.
Primeiro-ministro promete levar dívida da saúde dos Açores a Governo
Pedro Santana Lopes prometeu ainda que vai levar a conselho de ministros "a proposta de consolidação da dívida" do governo açoriano na área da saúde, deixando esse encargo de representar "uma dor de cabeça" para os açorianos. Essa "dor de cabeça" representa 9,5 milhões de euros, disse o primeiro-ministro.
O presidente do PSD acrescentou que dentro de um mês a contar do escrutínio resolverá com o próximo governo a forma de baixar as tarifas aéreas entre o arquipélago e o continente.
Acompanhado por Paulo Portas, presidente do CDS-PP, o dirigente social-democrata participou num comício em Angra que juntou mais de cinco mil pessoas, a maior manifestação partidária alguma vez feita nos Açores, segundo os organizadores.
Sem explicitar mas referindo-se ao caso que envolve o professor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Santana Lopes falou do facto de se falar nos últimos dias num "continente (Portugal continental) um pouco agitado", para deixar um aviso muito claro aos açorianos: "não votem em função dos líderes nacionais, não misturem eleições".
"Eu não fujo às questões, sempre disse 'avaliem-me a mim e aos meus adversários'", disse a propósito.
Optimista, como de resto os restantes dirigentes políticos, que no final cantaram e dançaram, Santana Lopes criticou os atrasos de desenvolvimento dos Açores, que, disse, se devem à gestão socialista, e perguntou porque razão a Madeira consegue resolver os problemas e os Açores não. "Porque há maneiras diferentes de estar no poder, há os que têm sentido político, têm princípios e valores e pensam na importância para as pessoas de não perder tempo", respondeu, referindo-se a Vítor Cruz, o líder da coligação e candidato a presidente do governo regional.
A falta de desenvolvimento do turismo nos Açores foi também criticada por Santana Lopes, que, porque "democracia é alternância" e "12 anos é muito tempo, oito já chega" (tempo de Carlos César no governo) é preciso mudar de governo no arquipélago.
A parte final do discurso de Santana Lopes foi dedicada a elogios a Vítor Cruz. "Tenho honra e tenho orgulho de ter como candidato Vítor Cruz", concluiu.
Seven men on island settled by Bounty mutineers go on trial under British law for having underage sex
REUTERS Posted online: Thursday, September 30, 2004 at 0224 hours IST
SYDNEY, SEPTEMBER 29: A group of women on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific are standing by their men, who face underage sex charges, saying having sex at age 12 is a tradition dating back to 18th century mutineers who settled on the island.
A handful of Pitcairn women have told reporters on the eve of a trial that sex with pubescent girls is always consensual and that the charges against their men is an attempt by Britain to close their island, home to a few dozen people.
Seven men, half of Pitcairn’s male population and descendants of 18th century mutineers who rebelled against Captain William Bligh aboard the HMS Bounty, face a total of 96 sex charges, some dating back more than 40 years.
But one Pitcairn mother, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being ostracised, disagreed with the other women. ‘‘The implication all girls are sexually active at 10 or 12... that’s nonsense!’’ she told Television New Zealand in a report from Pitcairn, a 5 square km island lying about halfway between New Zealand and Panama.
The seven men, including the mayor, are charged with having sex with underage girls. British law forbids having sex with a girl under 16.
A group of eight former Pitcairn women, now living in New Zealand, will give evidence via video for the prosecution. However, some of the women who first gave evidence have since withdrawn the charges, saying they were misled by police.
By Kathy Marks on Pitcairn Island
30 September 2004
His name is Steve Christian, and he is the mayor of Pitcairn Island and a descendant of Fletcher Christian, the Bounty's first mate. Yesterday he went on trial accused of raping and abusing children, after being stripped of the cloak of anonymity that has protected him for 18 months.
Mr Christian, 53, was the first of seven Pitcairners to go to court charged with sexual offences against girls in the tiny, isolated community founded by his ancestor and the other mutineers. The most powerful man on the island, he has been outspoken in his attacks on the British-instigated prosecution - but he never divulged his own involvement in the case.
Prosecutors alleged yesterday that he was one of "a significant number" of men who had serially abused under-age girls in Britain's furthest-flung dependent territory. Some of the alleged victims had barely entered puberty, while others were as young as five.
Mr Christian, said to be charming, clever and charismatic, has wielded authority on the semi-tropical island - which has a population of just 47 - since he was a teenager. "He was the leader and central figure in this small community," said the Pitcairn public prosecutor, Simon Moore. "He was a prominent and influential figure within his peer group."
Mr Christian is widely respected because he possesses all the skills essential for the survival of the struggling community marooned in the middle of the South Pacific. He is Pitcairn's supervising engineer, dentist, radiographer and a former magistrate. Most crucially, he captains the longboat, an umbilical cord connecting the island with the outside world.
But the island's tribal chieftain was a man whose personal magnetism allegedly concealed dark secrets.
One of his alleged victims, now 51 and living overseas, told the Pitcairn Supreme Court yesterday that she was raped by him three times when she was 11 or 12.
On the first occasion, she said, she was walking to a scenic spot with a group of youngsters when Mr Christian grabbed her and forced her to the ground. He then raped her under some banyan trees while two of his teenage friends held her down. "He then said to the other two: 'It's your turn if you want'," she said.
"They were laughing and said 'no'. They all ran off to catch up with the others and left me there." The trial in the ramshackle wooden courthouse in Adamstown, Pitcairn's only settlement, opened after the court lifted a suppression order that has shielded the defendants' identities.
The power dynamics in a community that has been romanticised because of its colourful history but was, allegedly, more like a dysfunctional family, can now be revealed. So can the excruciatingly intimate connections between the protagonists in a scandal that has touched every individual on the island and threatens its very future.
The intertwining of relationships was emphasised in court, where Mr Christian's sister, Brenda, sat beside him in the public gallery in her capacity as Pitcairn's police officer. Mr Christian, who is charged with six rapes and four indecent assaults between 1964 and 1975, sat straight-backed as his alleged victim recounted a litany of abuse.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, although he has admitted to having consensual sex with two under-age girls.
Mr Christian's 30-year-old son, Randy, is one of the other defendants. So is his father-in-law, Len Brown, 78, together with Mr Brown's son, Dave, 49. Postmaster Dennis Christian, 48, is also charged, as are Terry Young, 45, who is descended from British midshipman Edward Young, and Jay Warren, 48, a former magistrate.
While British justice has arrived on Pitcairn in the shape of three judges shipped in from New Zealand, it was plain yesterday that this was no ordinary trial. The courtroom was a public hall with peeling walls and no dock. The defendant wore flip-flops and a T-shirt with an HMS Bounty logo. Just before proceedings opened, one islander walked over and gave him a warm hug.
Mr Christian's alleged victim testified via video-link from the Auckland in New Zealand, a system adopted to avoid subjecting complainants to the long and difficult trip to Pitcairn. The 12 alleged victims now live in New Zealand, Australia and Britain.
The woman told the court of a miserable childhood on Pitcairn, where she was bullied and taunted as a "half-caste" and "outsider" because she had blue eyes and fair skin. Her brothers, who looked more Polynesian, had an easier time of it. Mr Christian, whom she called "the leader of the pack", was her chief tormentor, she said.
The woman described a background of family violence that, she said, made her meekly comply when Mr Christian ordered her to jump on his quad-bike and then drove her to a shed where he raped her for the second time on a bed of banana leaves. Afterwards he dropped her back at the village, telling her: "Don't say anything. Nobody is going to believe you."
The witness broke down as she recounted how her father beat her with a razor stop because the alleged rape had made her late for church. She was then raped for a third time after Mr Christian took her off again on his quad-bike. Asked whether she resisted, she replied: "What's the point? Just let him get on with it. He's going to do it anyway."
In the claustrophobically intimate community where no one lives more than a few hundred yards from each other, she could not avoid seeing Mr Christian. After the first rape, she said, she bumped into him and his two friends, and "it was as though nothing had happened - they just carried on as normal".
The case has divided islanders, some of whom claim that Pitcairn has a tradition of consensual under-age sex. One local woman said she had been ignored by fellow islanders and called a "Pommy-lover" because she had failed to offer vociferous support for the men standing trial.
By KATHY MARKS
PITCAIRN ISLAND - The court order suppressing the names of seven Pitcairners about to go on trial on multiple child sex abuse charges was lifted yesterday after a judge ruled there was no longer any reason to protect the men's identities.
Steve Christian, 53, mayor of the tiny British dependency in the South Pacific, will be the first to face trial in the threadbare public hall in Adamstown, Pitcairn's one settlement.
Christian, a descendant of Fletcher Christian, who fled to Pitcairn after the Bounty mutiny, is charged with six rapes and four indecent assaults between 1964 and 1975.
Christian's 30-year-old son, Randy, who is chairman of the island's public works committee, is also among the seven defendants. He has a small baby with his New Zealand wife, Nadine, who was the first woman to give birth on Pitcairn in 17 years.
Another father and son are facing court: Len Brown, 78, the oldest defendant, is charged with two rapes, and Dave Brown, 49, with 13 indecent assaults and two counts of gross indecency with a child.
Jay Warren, 48, a former Pitcairn magistrate, is also among the seven, as are Dennis Christian, the island's 49-year-old postmaster, and his best friend, Terry Young, 45.
As locals braced themselves for the opening of the trials, two female islanders yesterday rubbished claims by other women that Pitcairn girls commonly began having sex at the age of 12.
"That's a nonsense," said one woman yesterday.
Claims that alleged victims were intimidated and offered bribes in exchange for testifying were rejected by police yesterday.
Detective Inspector Rob Vinson of the Kent police said they were "a blatant attempt to manipulate the media, a last-ditch attempt to undermine this investigation".
MAYOR Steve Christian will go on trial this morning accused of leading a group who sexually abused underage girls and women over 30 years on the tiny Pacific outcrop.
Mr Christian, a direct descendant of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, is a charismatic and powerful figure whose influence dominates Pitcairn, population 47.
He lives in a sprawling hilltop home known as Big Fence, where the "in crowd" of Pitcairn gather each Friday night for drinks.
Today he will walk into Pitcairn Supreme Court charged with six rapes, including of two victims aged only 12, and of four indecent assaults against women and underage girls between 1964 and 1975.
This morning, Pitcairn's ramshackle white wooden courthouse will see the culmination of a five-year investigation that has caught the world's attention with its combination of naval history, colonial decay and the social dynamics of remote island life.
The accused bear the names of the rebel British sailors -- Brown, Young, Christian, Warren -- who were involved in a mutiny on His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty in April 1789 and fled to Pitcairn Island with their Tahitian lovers.
They are the powerful men of Pitcairn, a whole generation of inter-related men who are believed by prosecutors to have perpetuated a culture of sexual intimidation over this island.
They include Steve Christian's father-in-law Len Brown, 78, accused of raping one woman twice in 1969 and 1972, and his son Dave Brown, 49, who faces 15 of the most serious charges.
Dave Brown is accused of two acts of gross indecency against children and 13 indecent assaults against island women and girls between 1970 and 1991.
Other defendants include Steve Christian's son Randy Christian, 30, who is head of the island's "internal committee", responsible for public works, and is married with two children.
Conservation Department head and former island magistrate Jay Warren, 48, island postmaster Dennis Christian, 49, and electrician Terry Young, 45, are also on trial.
The men can be legally named for the first time today after Pitcairn Judge Russell Johnson lifted a suppression order late yesterday afternoon (Pitcairn time).
Another six Pitcairn men living in Australia and New Zealand will also face charges at a later date.
There was a long-standing culture
of young girls being initiated to sex at the age of 12 or 13, one island woman said yesterday.
"The adult men would say the young girls need to be broken in," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Everyone on the island is enmeshed in these allegations, related by blood or marriage to victims or defendants or both. Steve Christian's wife, Olive, has vowed to offer her full support to the three men in her life facing charges -- her husband, father Len Brown and brother Dave Brown.
Earlier this week, Olive Christian summoned the island's women to rally behind their men at a public meeting at Big Fence, and invited the international media to hear them "stand up for their guys". The women said Pitcairn had a longstanding culture of girls starting sex at 11, 12 or 14, and the defendants were guilty only of sleeping with girls who were equally "hot for it".
The women also accused police of offering Pitcairn women bribes in the form of victims' compensation in return for giving evidence.
Yesterday, a furious Detective Inspector Rob Vinson, the British police officer in charge of the case, said this was "complete nonsense".
"The meeting was a blatant attempt to manipulate the media, a last-ditch attempt to try and undermine this investigation," Det-Insp Vinson said.
Two island women, who asked for anonymity, came forward yesterday to assert that Pitcairn was not a hotbed of underage sex.
Defence lawyers tried to get the case adjourned yesterday on the grounds that Chief Justice Charles Blackie was biased because he had held a meeting on the looming trial logistics with Britain's Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Patricia Scotland.
Britain administers Pitcairn as a dependent territory, and defence lawyer Charles Cato said in Pitcairn Court yesterday that Baroness Scotland had been the "driving force" behind the prosecution.
But Det-Insp Vinson said police had investigated the matter "with no pressure or influence from the British Government whatsoever".
By KATHY MARKS on Pitcairn Island
The hymn was Shelter in a Time of Storm, and the sermon delivered in the Seventh Day Adventist Church urged Pitcairners to bond together in adversity.
But it will take more than a few platitudes to save this troubled community or redeem the church for its sins of omission.
A pastor was stationed on the tiny South Pacific island throughout the period when child rape and abuse were allegedly rampant.
But none of the men who served rotating two-year terms reported their concerns about Pitcairn, where the population was converted en masse to Seventh Day Adventism in the late 19th century.
After an investigation began into allegations of widespread abuse in 1999, several former pastors said privately they had suspected something was gravely amiss on the island, a British dependency with 47 inhabitants.
But Ray Coombe, sent to Pitcairn to minister to the locals during the child sex abuse trials that began last week, claimed after the Sabbath service on Saturday that the church had known nothing about the alleged mistreatment of children.
"They [the pastors] may have had an inkling but, to my knowledge, there was nothing that was definitely known," he said.
The trials were set to resume today, with a former Pitcairn woman giving evidence against Len Brown, 78, who is charged with raping her twice about 35 years ago.
Steve Christian, the mayor, will then go back into the dock, followed by Dennis Christian, charged with two indecent assaults and two sexual assaults.
Seven men are facing the Pitcairn Supreme Court and another six Pitcairners - now living abroad - are expected to go on trial in Auckland next year.
Mr Coombe told a congregation of about 15 locals - who included two defendants, Jay Warren and Terry Young - that the past week had been a historic but difficult time for Pitcairn.
"The peaceful, unhurried and carefree atmosphere has been interrupted," he said.
In an apparent reference to bitter divisions in the community, he added: "The more we feel threatened and under attack, the more we need to bond together and help each other."
Mr Coombe said afterwards that every family in the closely interconnected community was affected by the trials, being related either to the defendants or their alleged victims.
The church, meanwhile, is still in denial. Mr Coombe has not heard any of the evidence against the men, which includes allegations that Steve Christian raped an 11-year-old while two friends held her down and Dave Brown, another defendant, forced a 5-year-old girl to give him oral sex. Neither have the vast majority of locals, who have shunned the trials.
Mr Coombe said he had stayed away because he wished to remain neutral. That means, presumably, that he is hearing only the islanders' version of events: that all the alleged incidents involved consensual sex and girls mature early on Pitcairn.
As Edmund Burke said, all that is required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.
By Kathy Marks in Adamstown
02 October 2004
It is a cool Thursday evening, and the Pitcairn Island general store is a hub of social activity. Steve Christian, on trial for child rape and indecent assault, is browsing the dusty shelves, with their tins of corned beef and condensed milk. His son, Randy, who will soon follow him into the dock, is chatting animatedly with other shoppers in Pitkernese, the local dialect.
Christian's daughter, Tania, is manning one till, making entries in the islanders' battered account books. Carol Warren, whose husband, Jay, is charged with indecent assault, is looking after the other. Her two daughters, Charlene and Daralyn, who recently withdrew allegations against local men, have dropped in to have a gossip with the neighbours. Such are the two parallel universes of Pitcairn, which co-exist, apparently without friction. On the surface, what passes for normal life in this most curious of places continues uninterrupted. Meanwhile, in the village square, a procession of men passes through the ramshackle wooden courtroom, charged with a litany of sex offences.
Seven men face the Pitcairn Supreme Court, and another six - now living in Australia and New Zealand - will go to trial next year in Auckland. But The Independent has learnt that the 18-month investigation by Kent Police uncovered allegations against 31 men going back to the 1960s. That is a remarkable figure given Pitcairn's current population of 47, including 15 adult males. Some of the 31 are dead. Thirteen have been charged. Statements against the remainder, many of whom live off the island, have been retracted - mainly as a result of pressure by the alleged victims' families, claim sources close to the case. The charges laid, they say, represent only "a snapshot" of the bigger picture.
As you follow the "main road" - a rutted dirt track - down to Bounty Bay, where Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers burnt their ship to escape detection, it is hard to believe that such a tranquil and picturesque spot could be the scene of so much alleged violence against children. Beautiful vistas over the South Pacific open up as you descend the Hill of Difficulty, which connects a small landing stage with Adamstown, the tiny settlement. Islanders wave cheerily as they speed past on their motorised quad bikes, the only form of transport. At the wharf, two women gut freshly caught fish, which they will grill later on for a family dinner.
Which of Pitcairn's two faces is the genuine one? Is it the friendly, hospitable face that inhabitants of the British territory switch on for outsiders, or is it the dark and sinister face gradually taking shape as the prosecution outlines its case? Are the mutineers' descendants the simple, down-to-earth folk who welcome visitors with broad smiles and would drop everything to help a neighbour in need, pulling together to guarantee the survival of their remote, rugged island community? Or is Pitcairn a dsyfunctional society where child abuse is rampant and even untainted members have turned a blind eye for generations? A modern-day Lord of the Flies, a place that has turned inwards and devoured itself after decades of being left to its own devices?
The answers will not be clear until the three judges shipped in from New Zealand deliver their verdicts in six weeks' time. Even then, much may remain murky. Pitcairn has guarded itself from prying eyes for two centuries, wrapping itself in the mystique of the Bounty legend and relying on its remote location - a 36-hour sail from the nearest airfield in French Polynesia - to perpetuate that myth. Now facing its gravest crisis since the mutineers fled here in 1790 with their Polynesian wives, the island is in collective denial.
Only four locals sat on the wooden bench at the back of the public hall to hear their mayor, Steve Christian - the man whose influence is so pervasive that nothing happens on Pitcairn without his say-so - accused of raping an 11-year-old while his two friends pinned her arms and legs to the ground.
Just one islander attended court to listen to the catalogue of charges against Pitcairn's tractor driver, Dave Brown, 49. Brown allegedly forced a five-year-old girl to give him oral sex during a communal outing, and assaulted another girl, possibly as young as seven, in the Seventh Day Adventist church while her little friend watched.
Whatever may or may not have happened in this sleepy place half-way between South America and New Zealand, Pitcairners would prefer not to know. It is easier to tell themselves the case against their men is absurd, that the incidents all involved consensual sex in a community where girls traditionally mature early. All seven men have pleaded not guilty.
The recently arrived visitor, seeking to divide fact from fiction, soon begins to feel like Alice in Wonderland. One family may detest another, but long-running feuds never manifest themselves in open warfare. Instead, they fester and infect the atmosphere in a goldfish-bowl community where nothing is private. Locals greet each other with friendly words and then spout poison behind each other's backs. "They're the most two-faced people in the world," says one outsider who has spent many months living among them. "They're incredibly shrewd and manipulative."
When the investigation began five years ago, the women stood by their menfolk, accusing their daughters of promiscuity. The scandal was blamed on the girls for speaking out rather than on the men who allegedly abused them. This week, as the trials were about to commence, the women called a surreal public meeting, where they boasted to strangers that they started having sex at 12. A middle-aged woman who was raped as a child swore blind that nothing of that sort ever happened on Pitcairn.
To begin unpeeling the layers of mystery that shroud the island, it is necessary to understand the power dynamics of a community that lives off its colourful past yet is a prisoner of its own history.
The Bounty legend guarantees a thriving trade in the wooden curios that islanders carve to sell by mail-order or to passengers whom they ferry ashore from the cruise ships that intermittently pass by. The other goods they produce - stamps, honey, dried fruits - are sure to find a market, too, thanks to the aura of the Pitcairn name. But to the locals, Fletcher Christian, the Bounty's first mate, is not just the swashbuckling hero familiar from so many Hollywood films. The mutineers' leader is still revered and his descendants hold sway in a society regulated by a caste system with one ruling family: the Christians.
Other families, who all bear the surnames Warren, Brown and Young, are subservient. A form of apartheid is also at play; the more Polynesian you look, the better. At the bottom of the heap are outsiders, "non-Pitcairners", who are excluded from the power base. Two male residents - an Englishman and a Raratongan from the Cook Islands - will never be given a tractor licence, despite their long experience.
Steve Christian heads the pre-eminent clan and, when he is absent, Pitcairn grinds to a halt. Sources have claimed that, in the past, he reserved for himself the privilege of "breaking in" local girls when they reached 11 or 12. As he accumulated a "harem" of girls around him, men from lower-ranked families allegedly became jealous and began seeking out girls who were younger and younger, taking them by force. Repeated rapes might eventually lead to a consensual relationship. Girls got pregnant and had several children by different fathers. Adultery, meanwhile, was said to be rife among the adults who make up Pitcairn society.
The sources dismiss the notion of a culture of under-age consensual sex, as well as the argument that men knew no better because the island was so isolated. In reality, they say, many Pitcairners have travelled widely. "It wasn't that they didn't know the boundaries," says one source. "They simply chose to ignore them."
Christian and his male relations are the aristocracy on an island that values the physical talents of its able-bodied men above all else. While the Christians are said to have controlled access to the supply ships and to building permissions, the community relies on all its men for survival. The men crew the longboats that bring goods ashore from the ships that call a few times a year from New Zealand. They repair machinery, and maintain the roads that cover everything in red dust and turn to thick mud after a tropical downpour.
In a society dominated by men since the days of Fletcher Christian, women know their place. They may be outspoken, assertive even, but they cannot do the men's work. So the men make the rules and the women defer. It sounds anachronistic, but there is much about Pitcairn that reminds one of a bygone era. The only shop opens for an hour three times a week; so do the tiny post office and library. There is neither television nor mobile-phone reception, and only one party telephone line, which is rarely used because inquisitive neighours can listen in on your conversation. The electricity is on for only 10 hours a day, and if you want hot water, you must build a fire.
Flush toilets are a rarity. The mail takes months to arrive. Islanders communicate with each other by radio. Before the internet arrived 18 months ago, locals lived in blissful ignorance of world events. There might be wars, famines, assassinations - but on Pitcairn, it can take months to find out.
As far as criminal justice went, Pitcairn policed itself. It had a magistrate and, according to historical records, the court cases nearly always involved the crime of unlawful carnal knowledge. When a girl of 12 or 13 fell pregnant, a man would go on trial, and sometimes receive the maximum prison sentence of 100 days. Now three generations of Pitcairn men are facing the full force of British justice for allegedly abusing the most vulnerable members of their society.
But even those islanders who deplore these alleged acts do not want to see the perpetrators go to jail. And some of the alleged victims, who all grew up on the island and are now adults, wish them to be spared that humiliation. They want the men, if found guilty, to acknowlege their sins and rebuild the community on healthier foundations. They want never to return to Pitcairn themselves, but they are still intensely protective of the island.
The court has sat for just three days so far, but already the image of Pitcairn as a South Pacific idyll has been brutally shattered. Alleged victims have painted a picture of widespread abuse in a world in which young girls were treated as no better than playthings.
A woman of 51, who was allegedly raped and abused by several defendants as a young girl, testified that Pitcairn men lived according to laws of their own making. "It just seemed to be the normal way of life back on Pitcairn, how the girls are treated, as though they are a sex thing," she said.
"Men could do what they want with them. They seem to be a rule unto themselves. That's the way it is on Pitcairn. You get abused, you get raped. They just do what they want with you and then leave you in the gutter. It's a normal way of life on Pitcairn."
The woman's own father, a pillar of the community, was a violent man who beat his wife senseless almost nightly. After one alleged rape at the hands of Steve Christian, her father thrashed her with a razor strop because the incident had made her late for church.
For her, growing up on Pitcairn was not the carefree existence that outsiders might have fondly imagined. The woman, now married and living overseas, said: "Everyone thinks Pitcairn is a paradise. But it's sheer hell."
CTV.ca News Staff
A sexual abuse trial garnering international attention began on tiny Pitcairn Island, one of the most isolated places in the world.
With a population of 47, no telephones and no televisions, it's alleged that men on the island are having sex with children. In fact, many of those accused admit they've committed the crime.
In their defence, the men say all of the girls consented, and that women on the island start having sex at an early age, anyway. Women on the island agree it's true.
"I was very young but I thought I was hot and I thought being like that you'd become a big girl," said Pitcairn resident Darralyn Griffiths.
"I believe there has never been rape here on the island that I know of," said fellow islander Meralda Warren.
But eight women, now living in New Zealand, tell a different story. They have accused seven of the men living on the island of raping them years ago, when they were children.
The accusers are testifying via video link because of the island's remote location. Instruments of British justice arrived on Pitcairn earlier in the week, brought to shore by some of the same men who are now on trial.
Many of the men are descendants of the 18th-century Bounty mutineers. The community's history has been made famous through books and movies.
It began just more than 200 years ago, when Fletcher Christian, the leader of the ship, decided to hide out on the island. He brought along eight fellow mutineers and a group of Tahitians.
Once the men landed, they fought amongst themselves and most of them died. Christian survived, and he's remembered as the founder and the first leader of the settlement.
Steve Christian, 53, is also Pitcairn's current mayor. He claims to be a descendant of the island's first leader. He's the most prominent of the seven island men charged, and he's the first one to stand trial.
Christian has pleaded not guilty to six charges of rape and four indecent assault charges. Four women are linked to the charges, and one alleged victim broke down several times while delivering evidence from New Zealand.
One author who wrote a book about Pitcairn says she thinks the trial will devastate the community.
"There's only nine-odd families on the island, four surnames shared between them," said Dea Birkett. "That's an indication of the tangled web of relationships there are there."
Back in the 19th century, it took the British Royal Navy 18 years to find Pitcairn. They left the mutineers' descendants alone since then.
It was in 1999 that a visiting British police officer, Gail Cox, heard reports of men having sex with children on Pitcairn. After a three-year investigation, the seven men were charged.
By KATHY MARKS
PITCAIRN ISLAND - Steve Christian, Pitcairn Island Mayor and a descendant of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian, went on trial yesterday charged with raping and abusing children, after being stripped of the anonymity that has protected him for 18 months.
The 53-year-old was the first of seven Pitcairners to go to court charged with sexual offences against girls in the tiny, isolated community founded by his ancestor and eight other mutineers.
Christian, the most powerful man on the island, has been outspoken in his attacks on the British-instigated prosecution - but he never divulged his own involvement in the case.
Prosecutors alleged yesterday that he was one of "a significant number" of men who had serially abused girls as young as 5.
One of his alleged victims claimed there was a culture of sexual abuse on the island when she grew up there in the 1960s.
The woman, now 51 and living overseas, told the Pitcairn Supreme Court she was raped by Christian three times when she was 11 or 12.
She kept it to herself for decades, she said, "out of guilt, out of shame, out of nobody would believe me".
She said: "It just seemed to be the normal way of life back on Pitcairn, how the girls are treated, as though they are a sex thing.
"Men could do what they want with them. They seem to be a rule unto themselves."
Christian, said to be charming, clever and charismatic, has wielded authority on the island - population 47 - since he was a teenager.
"He was the leader and central figure in this small community," said the Pitcairn public prosecutor, Simon Moore.
Christian is widely respected as the island's supervising engineer, dentist, radiographer and a former magistrate. Most crucially, he is coxswain of the longboat, an umbilical cord connecting Pitcairn with the outside world.
His alleged victim told the court that the first rape took place while she was walking to a scenic spot with a group of youngsters.
Christian grabbed her and forced her to the ground, she said, and raped her while two of his friends held her down.
"He then said to the other two, 'It's your turn if you want'.
"They were laughing and said 'no'. They all ran off to catch up with the others and left me there."
The trial before three New Zealand judges in the ramshackle wooden courthouse in Adamstown, Pitcairn's only settlement, has highlighted the intertwining of relationships on the island.
Christian's sister Brenda sat beside him in her capacity as Pitcairn's police officer.
Christian sat straight-backed as his alleged victim recounted a litany of abuse.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, although he has admitted to having consensual sex with two underage girls.
Christian's alleged victim testified via video-link from Auckland, a system adopted to avoid subjecting complainants to the long and difficult trip to Pitcairn.
The woman told the court of a miserable childhood on the island, where she was bullied and taunted as a "half-caste" and "outsider" because she had blue eyes and fair skin. Christian, "the leader of the pack", was her chief tormentor, she said.
The woman described a background of family violence that, she said, made her meekly comply when Christian ordered her to jump on his motorbike and drove her to a shed where he raped her for the second time on a bed of banana leaves.
He dropped her back at the village, telling her: "Don't say anything. Nobody is going to believe you."
The witness broke down as she recounted how her father beat her with a razor strop because the incident made her late for church.
She was raped a third time after Christian took her off again on his motorbike. Asked whether she resisted, she replied: "What's the point? Just let him get on with it. He's going to do it anyway."
Under cross-examination by Paul Dacre, the Pitcairn public defender, she said there was no one on the island to whom she could turn.
"Whatever happens to you on Pitcairn, you carry on as if nothing has happened. That's the way it is."
* Steve Christian, charged with a total of six rapes and four indecent assaults committed between 1964 and 1975.
* Christian's 30-year-old son, Randy.
* Len Brown, 78, Steve Christian's father-in-law.
* Brown's son, Dave, 49.
* Postmaster Dennis Christian, 48.
* Terry Young, 45, who is descended from HMS Bounty midshipman Edward Young.
* Jay Warren, 48, a former magistrate.
I’LL CONFESS straight off to a long-standing fascination with Pitcairn Island, kindled when I first swooned over Marlon Brando’s scowl in the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty. Even then, though, through the haze of my teenage crush, Brando was upstaged by the scrolled script that remained onscreen after the credits finished rolling, informing wide-eyed viewers that descendents of Fletcher Christian, the other mutineers and their Tahitian consorts still lived on Pitcairn Island.
I’ve often wondered what kind of life these unlikely Pacific islanders managed to build for themselves, with little contact from the outside world and no origin myth to sustain them other than mutiny? Well now we know, since as of last week the long arm of British law is having to stretch 9,200 miles to reach Pitcairn in order to try seven islanders on more than 50 charges of sexual abuse, including rape and indecent assault against children as young as five.
Mutiny leader Fletcher Christian always said that the British would eventually catch up with his descendents. But even he, believing himself to be cursed, could hardly have envisaged the present scenario - 214 years down the line.
The first signs that all was not well on Pitcairn came to light only after a police officer from Kent, on temporary secondment to the island, began uncovering allegations of sexual abuse. Criminal proceedings were set in motion in 1999 when a 15-year-old girl decided to press charges of rape.
The case, which has grown to involve 13 defendants (six of whom live in New Zealand and will be tried there next year) and 12 victims, affects almost everyone on the island, where 47 people, many of them direct descendents of the original mutineers, reside. As you might expect in a situation where most of the perpetrators of the alleged abuse are in one way or another related to many of the victims, people feel extremely conflicted.
Last week, 13 of the island women, representing three generations of Pitcairners, called a press conference aimed at diffusing tension around the case and publicly defended their menfolk.
Olive Christian, whose husband Steve is mayor of Pitcairn and also first up in the dock, claimed that underage sex was a tradition on the island dating back to 1790 and that it was part of Polynesian custom. Speaking of her girlhood, she said: "We all thought sex was like food on the table." Both Christian’s daughters also admitted to having had sex from the age of 12, one of them claiming that she had been "hot for it".
Some of the women present, however, sat silent and sullen, as if they’d been coerced into attending the conference, and one woman, desperate to remain anonymous, later emailed a newspaper to dismiss Olive Christian’s claims as "nonsense".
The atmosphere on Pitcairn must be intimidating for those who believe that abuse was systematic and widespread, with men demanding sex by right according to a caste system that accords higher rank to those bearing surnames of greater historical status.
Such a pompous patriarchal prerogative recalls the utopian communes that sprang up in America in the 19th century around the cultish figure of an inspired leader, many of whom gleefully devoted themselves to the practice of free love. John Humphrey Noyes’ Oneida community comes to mind, where, via something called "complex marriage", each adult was married to every member of the opposite sex within the community. As for Britain, remember John Wroe and his famous virgins.
Yet we needn’t look that far back for free-loving precedents. The Children of God community, founded in the 1960s by Californian polygamist David Berg, has long had a thriving outpost in the UK. Members live in secluded colonies, share partners and at one point, with Berg’s blessing, they reputedly engaged in incest.
But even setting aside cultish comparisons, the sheer isolation of Pitcairn has got to be unhealthy.
Like some strange social experiment gone awry, the place is a human equivalent of the Galapagos, where the absence of external influence has led to all kinds of evolutionary cul-de-sacs. Take Pitcairnese, for example, a language the locals speak between themselves. It’s a mixture of 18th-century English and Tahitian and it has zero currency anywhere else.
Similarly, it’s almost painful to contemplate how much defective DNA has failed to be weeded out of a tiny gene pool that’s remained stagnant through generations of inbreeding.
Yet if Pitcairn’s isolation is worn by the islanders as a badge of pride - a mark of their unique identity - it also shields unlawful practices from the prying eyes of police and social workers. It’s little wonder that the victims in the sex abuse case only filed charges from the safe distance of New Zealand, where broad contact with contemporary culture effectively functioned as exit counselling. Indeed, one of the victims who has since returned to Pitcairn’s goldfish bowl environment now claims to have re-evaluated her sexual history and has dropped charges.
The women defending the practice of underage sex seem terribly sad to me. Ironically, they remind me of those self-denying Sudanese girls who trumpet the benefits of clitoridectomy. In both cases, the women have internalised a male-imposed ideal of female sexuality, whether it’s the fantasy that girls are "hot for it" at 12 or the belief that because all women must be hot for it, they need to be mutilated.
Pitcairners are famous for the culture of silence that pervades their small society. Now that the silence is being broken and some ugly truths are being brought home, it’s hardly surprising that some of the islanders are in denial. Their impulse is to defend themselves, their way of life and their men, and to lash out at everyone else.
The British too have been painted as villains, accused of using the trials as cover for a plot to shut down the island. Talk about an inflated sense of self-importance.
Frankly, it’s time the islanders got over themselves. If there were a kinder way of yanking them into the 21st century, I’d be the first person cheering. As it is, it looks like Pitcairn will have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming.
By Kathy Marks on Pitcairn Island
03 October 2004
She was a young Pitcairner, a teenage girl tending watermelons in an isolated spot on the island where she grew up. Len Brown was old enough to be her father. But, so the charges go, when he decided he wanted to have sex with her, he just went straight ahead and did it.
Brown, 78, was the third of seven Pitcairners to go on trial last week, accused of a total of 55 child sex offences. He is alleged to have raped the girl twice after turning up to see her on his motorbike. His 49-year-old son, Dave, is also on trial, facing charges that include forcing the girl's five-year-old sister to give him oral sex during a birthday party outing.
The Pitcairn Supreme Court, sitting in a ramshackle weatherboard hall in the British dependent territory, was told of a litany of abuse committed against young girls in the South Pacific community founded by Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers.
The prosecution painted a picture of a remote island society where men ruled the roost and treated young girls as playthings. When the two alleged rapes took place, the elder Brown was 27 years older than his victim, who had already been raped three times, the court was told, by Steve Christian, now Pitcairn's mayor.
Fletcher Pilditch, Pitcairn's assistant public prosecutor, told Justice Russell Johnson that the girl was taken by surprise when Brown arrived at the watermelon patch in an area of the island known as The Hollow. "There was some chit-chat about the garden, and then the accused said to her that he was going to 'do it'," Mr Pilditch said. "It was not a request. He was not asking her; he was telling her. She said 'what?' He said 'sex'."
Brown allegedly took the girl, now a woman of 51, to a scenic spot called Gannets Ridge, where he forced her down on the ground and raped her. A couple of days later, Brown allegedly arrived at The Hollow again and raped her for a second time. "When he had finished, he simply got up and left without a word," Mr Pilditch said.
Three generations of Pitcairners are on trial in Adamstown, the one small settlement on the island, a chunk of volcanic rock between South America and New Zealand. They include Steve Christian, a descendant of the Bounty's first mate, and his 30-year-old, son, Randy.
While the trials have exposed the island to international scrutiny for the first time, few locals are bothering to watch them. On Pitcairn, the rhythms of life continue almost uninterrupted.
On Friday, the thickly vegetated hillsides resounded to the crackle of gunfire. Christian, who is remanded on bail, was out on an expedition to shoot breadfruit down from the island's tall trees. However, he had to seek special permission to have his guns - handed in during a recent amnesty - returned, and was accompanied by a Ministry of Defence police officer.
The trials were set to resume today, with Dennis Christian, Pitcairn's 48-year-old postmaster, facing two charges of indecent assault and two of sexual assault. He will be followed by Terry Young, 45, who is charged with one rape and seven indecent assaults, one on a seven-year-old.
The case has highlighted the web of interrelations between Pitcairn's 47 inhabitants. Brown is the father-in-law of Steve Christian, the most influential man on the island. The court has heard that Christian, 53, who is charged with six rapes and four indecent assaults, has wielded authority on Pitcairn since he was a teenager.
Some insiders have speculated that the trials could lead to a shift in power on the island. People not born and bred on Pitcairn have always been excluded from the inner circle, and have not even been allowed to get a tractor licence. All that could change if some or all of the accused men are convicted and incarcerated in the newly built jail.