updated 5/24/2005 12:34:47 AM ET 2005-05-24T04:34:47

Six men from remote Pitcairn Island on Tuesday lost appeals against their convictions for a string of sex attacks dating back 40 years on the tiny Pacific home to descendants of the HMS Bounty mutiny.

Pitcairn’s Supreme Court, which sits in the New Zealand city of Auckland and operates as part of Britain’s legal system, rejected defense arguments that there had been an abuse of process at the men’s trial last year on the island, which has a year-round population of 47.

The 95-page decision by the three-judge panel said none of the grounds of the appeal were valid, rejecting defense arguments that said the men were not aware that they were subject to British laws.

Years of abuse alleged
Former Pitcairn mayor Steve Christian and five others were convicted on charges including rape and indecent assault of mostly underage girls over a 40-year period. Four of the men face prison terms after their appeals were dismissed.

The defendants, who remain free on Pitcairn pending the appeal outcome, watched the proceedings via a satellite video link.

British government prosecutors argued that Pitcairn residents were subject to Britain’s laws, including those relating to sexual offenses, for most of the island’s 200-year history. They said British jurisdiction over the island began as early as 1838, when island residents sought legal protection from Britain and flew a British Union Jack flag.

Mutinous history
Pitcairn has long fascinated the world for being the refuge of men who mutinied aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. They later settled on Pitcairn along with Tahitian brides.

In a separate appeal to Britain’s Privy Council, the highest appeal court for many British colonies and former colonies, the islanders also have challenged Britain’s jurisdiction over the island, arguing it has never had control over Pitcairn and therefore its legal system doesn’t apply. A date has yet to be set for that hearing.

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