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The Pitcairn Island criminal trials – How has restorative justice featured?

Coster, Sarah
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Paper presented at “New Frontiers in Restorative Justice: Advancing Theory and Practice”, Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University at Albany, New Zealand, 2-5 December.

The amassed circumstances surrounding the trials involving 13 men charged with sexual offending on Pitcairn Island (a British Overseas Territory in the Pacific with a population of 47) make them some of the most extraordinary trials in criminal history. The situation has already raised many fascinating questions of law and justice. Quite apart from the issues within the individual trials themselves, this case has involved pre-trial applications questioning the status of Pitcairn law and challenging the jurisdiction of the Pitcairn courts. Consideration of whether to run the trials on the small, isolated island also raised fundamental issues of justice, while the practical outworking of doing so has highlighted tensions existing within the community.

Restorative Justice has featured in the mix of issues to date, having been variously mooted by some Pitcairn Islanders, Restorative Justice advocates, and other observers, as a potential means of dealing with the situation. Some have proposed restorative justice as a substitute for the trials, others as an aspect of sentencing, and others as an adjunct to the existing criminal process. This presentation will note the various forms of restorative justice that have been suggested in relation to the trial, and will identify some issues to be considered surrounding those proposals from a theoretical perspective. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University,


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