Real Crime: Trouble in Paradise: The Pitcairn Story - Wednesday 2 May

Real Crime: Trouble In Paradise – The Pitcairn Story Wednesday 2 May, 9.30pm

In 2004, one of the most unusual trials in the history of the British Empire took place on Pitcairn Island – a tiny colony of just 47 people, in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. The trial, where seven local men, from four families, were accused of sexually abusing children as young as five years old, sent shockwaves around the world.

The case divided the tiny population of locals and became a battleground between a 200-year-old way of life on one side and modern British justice on the other. The men’s main defence was that consensual underage sex was traditional on the isolated island. But their victims claimed their lives had been blighted by the abuse.
In this British documentary, the people of Pitcairn, and one of the victims, tell their extraordinary story. Filmmaker Nick Godwin spent time on the island between the trial and the subsequent Privy Council appeal in 2006.

Settled in 1790 by the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions, the remote South Pacific island and its fledgling community lay undetected by the outside world for 20 years. Even now, the islanders live a remote life with no television, roads, phones or air strip.

Godwin examines how isolation can affect a community’s perceptions of right and wrong. “Isolation is a way of life on Pitcairn,” says Godwin. “Everything, from toothpaste to construction materials, is shipped in from New Zealand once a year. The only shop opens just a few hours a week. Electricity flows just a few hours a day.”

Since the trial, Pitcairn Island is a community divided, with the lines of division splitting right through some families. The community is now one of the most heavily policed populations in the world – its 47 inhabitants have been joined by two Ministry of Defence police officers, two social workers, a diplomat and a doctor. And not everyone is happy about the newcomers.

The documentary includes interviews with the island’s former mayor Steve Christian, one of the convicted men; his wife Olive, whose son, father and brother were also charged with sex crimes; his sister Brenda, who served as the island’s police officer throughout the four-year investigation; Jacqui Christian, a Pitcairn Islander who testified against three men in the trial and who now lives in Britain; and the two principle investigating British police officers.

The cameras also go inside the island’s prison, which the convicted men helped build as they waited for their appeal to be heard.

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