Contributor(s)University of New England
KeywordsCriminal Law and Procedure
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Abstract'R v Stevens Christian' (T 37-46/2003, 24 May 2005) is the long-awaited response of the Pitcairn Islands Supreme Court to the application for a stay of prosecution of the Pitcairn Islanders charged with a variety of sexual offences. In support of the stay, the Public Defender argued that the trials would be an abuse of process because the relevant law had not been promulgated (the promulgation issue), because the Court structure had been set up after the decision to prosecute had been made (the late constitution issue) and because of delay in progressing the prosecutions (the delay issue). The application (heard after the trials were completed) was unsuccessful. The judgment contains much more information about the offending than has been revealed previously and it is apparent that some of the concerns about which law applies to the offending, expressed in a previous article in this journal, are academic to this particular group of charges. (Angelo and Wright "Pitcairn: sunset on the Empire?"  NZLJ 431) Because of the violence associated with the sexual offences the Court concluded that the Pitcairn Ordinance was insufficient to deal with the seriousness of the sexual acts (the maximum penalty being 100 days' imprisonment) (Justice Ordinance 1966, s 88). It was therefore presumed that because of the low penalty, and because the Pitcairn Ordinance fell short of applying to all kinds of sexual offending (for instance, it excludes offences against children under 12 years old) it must have been understood by the Pitcairn community that another source would come into play. The conclusion was that English law applied. However, it is unfortunate that the Court has still failed to adequately address what English law applies and the various issues arising from such decision.