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Pitcairn's Tortured Past: A Legal History

Lewis, A; (2010) Pitcairn's Tortured Past: A Legal History. In: Justice, Legality and the Rule of Law: Lessons from the Pitcairn Prosecutions. Oxford University Press

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This chapter traces the legal history of Pitcairn Island. Many of the original settlers were murdered, and their Tahitian womenfolk were ill-treated - and there was no machinery of justice, at least of the kind that modern lawyers would recognize as such - to deal with these activities. There was much coming and going of residents, the addition of new blood from time to time, a brief forced deportation to Tahiti in 1831, and a transportation to Norfolk Island (a penal colony until 1855) in 1856. There were various assertions of authority over Pitcairn by the British Crown from 1813, and particularly from 1856. And, from about 1886, Seventh Day Adventist practices were adopted on Pitcairn. In 1898, the Crown brought Pitcairn within the operation of the British Settlements Act, and within its definition of a colony, in response to the need to try Harry Christian for the murder of two people on the island. Thereafter some measures were taken by the British to put in place a criminal justice system, at least on paper. But there was still no British presence on the island until the criminal proceedings in Christian were underway, and there were only a couple of brief visits - one by a legal adviser in 1958 and one by the Governor in 1973. This indicates a laxity on the part of the British to the point of turpitude.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Pitcairn's Tortured Past: A Legal History
ISBN-13: 9780199568666
DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568666.003.0003
Keywords: British crown, Legal history, Seventh day adventist, Tahiti
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Laws
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1307690
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