Pitcairn rights denied

Green MP Keith Locke remains unconvinced that trials regarding sex offending on Pitcairn Island should be held in New Zealand.

Mr Locke (along with New Zealand First member Ron Mark) has appended a minority report to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committees commentary on the Pitcairn Trials Bill, which was reported back to Parliament today.

“All the public evidence we heard, both written and oral, was against the bill. We were assured by both the Mayor of Pitcairn, Steve Christian, and the Pitcairn public defender, Paul Dacre, that all Pitcairn residents were in favour of any trials being held on the island.

“They argued that any practical problems to holding the trials on the island could be overcome. The islanders have experience in hosting large groups, and new accommodation facilities have recently been built, plus a detention bloc. The British government indicated that a video conferencing facility would be available, so that New Zealand-based witnesses could give evidence without travelling overseas.

“Having trials on Pitcairn would ensure that two basic rules of justice apply, that people should be tried in the country where the offences are committed, and that the hearings be in front of the people of that country.

“Denying Pitcairners the ability to have trials there would also be contrary to our commitment to a people’s right to self-determination. Pitcairn is on the UN list of non-self governing territories, requiring the colonial power to assist Pitcairn people towards greater self-government.

“I understand the Pitcairn people are taking a complaint to the United Nations in regard to trials being shifted to New Zealand against their will. No Pitcairner was even consulted before the British and New Zealand governments agreed on a treaty and legislation for New Zealand-based trials.

“I also take seriously the wish of many Pitcairners for a Truth and Reconciliation process. As we discovered in South Africa this can be a community healing process for important historic problems. As we also saw in South Africa this doesn’t rule out subsequent trials for serious offences, and offenders being brought to book.

“There is serious concern that having New Zealand as the trial venue could fatally undermine the island community, which is less than 50 strong.

“These are serious allegations and we are also concerned that the alleged victims are receiving appropriate support. However, a solution with both allows victims to see justice being done, and enables the community to survive and prosper, is in the best interests of everyone,” said Mr Locke.