Jailed ex-mayor serves time in a remote island prison that doubles as tourist accomodation

The prison on Pitcairn has one current inmate and when not in use the buildings double as tourist digs.
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The prison on Pitcairn has one current inmate and when not in use the buildings double as tourist digs.

There is one purpose-built jail on Pitcairn Island currently housing a sole inmate - a former mayor.

When it's not being used as a jail, HMP Pitcairn doubles as tourist accommodation for one of the world's remotest communities and few remaining outposts from the British colonial era.

In the early 2000s, the island settled in the 18th century by descendants of mutineers from HMS Bounty and Tahitian islanders was embroiled in a sex abuse controversy and a series of trials that gained international notoriety.

Around 50 permanent residents live on Pitcairn Island.
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Around 50 permanent residents live on Pitcairn Island.

The jail was built to house those convicted - six men eventually - in a series of trials.

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A decade later, former mayor Michael Warren, in a separate case to the earlier trials, was charged with possessing indecent images of children on his computer when his home and office on the Pacific island was raided in 2010.

A handful of dirt roads encircle the island.
Google

A handful of dirt roads encircle the island.

Warren is currently the only inmate on the island, a speck in the Pacific ocean, just 3.2 kilometres long and 1.6km wide. The group of four islands, Pitcairn and uninhabited Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno, is more than 2000km southeast of Tahiti and 5500km from New Zealand.

In March, Warren was convicted and sentenced to 20 months in jail for the possession charges and a charge of engaging in an online sex chat with a person purporting to be a 15-year-old girl.

He is guarded by four officers contracted from Corrections New Zealand, a unique law enforcement arrangement given that Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory with its own government, laws, and constitution.

Stuff has learned Warren did not start his prison sentence until September as arrangements had to be made to supervise his sentencing.

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During his trial, which sat in New Zealand under an agreement between the Pitcairn government and the United Kingdom, Warren appeared by videolink in an Auckland court room. He had denied the charges, which related to more than 1000 child sex images and videos.

On Friday, the case was granted leave to appeal the conviction to the Privy Council, the centuries-old institution often dubbed the court of last resort.

A cannon from HMS Bounty in Adamstown, the only settlement on Pitcairn Island.
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A cannon from HMS Bounty in Adamstown, the only settlement on Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn has no taxes, one road, a population of around 50 and one general store open three times a week. Many of the descendants of the mutineers re-settled on Norfolk Island, an Australian territory, during the 19th century. 

Warren's lawyer Tony Ellis said the jail was built for those convicted during the early 2000s investigation into historic cases of child sex abuse, dubbed Operation Unique.

He said the new appeal was filed on seven grounds related to the constitutional framework of the case and Pitcairn law.

Adamstown is the capital and the only settlement on Pitcairn.
Google

Adamstown is the capital and the only settlement on Pitcairn.

"The prison was built for Operation Unique, it doubles as a tourist lodge. It's rare to have anybody in jail. I think it might need a bit of a spruce up."

A Corrections statement said "one of the residents" of Pitcairn was expected to serve 10 months in prison and imprisonment commenced on September 4. New Zealand has previously provided custodial support, including police, to the island to support the Pitcairn authorities.

An agreement was reached between the government of Pitcairn and Corrections in August.

Human rights barrister Tony Ellis (pictured) is representing Pitcairn Island's only current prisoner.
MAARTEN HOLL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Human rights barrister Tony Ellis (pictured) is representing Pitcairn Island's only current prisoner.

"Corrections has a team of four officers on the island. 

"Corrections seeks individuals from within its own ranks of experienced Corrections officers, who are deployed to the island for a short term to manage custodial duties."

The case dates back to 2010. Under Pitcairn law, because Warren exhausted the appeal options available, an appeal to the Privy Council as a last resort was possible. 

The steep main road to Bounty Bay, left, is called the Hill of Difficulty.
Google

The steep main road to Bounty Bay, left, is called the Hill of Difficulty.

In July, Warren lost an appeal against conviction and sentence in the Pitcairn Court of Appeal.

Ellis said a date for an appeal hearing was many months away.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office administers travel visas for the territory and grants licences for people who travel there for more than two weeks. There is no access by air.

Uninhabited Henderson Island, one of four islands in the Pitcairn group.
Google

Uninhabited Henderson Island, one of four islands in the Pitcairn group.

Pitcairn was largely ignored by the international community until the late 1990s, when a British investigation into child sex abuse uncovered dozens of victims and offenders.

Under its constitution, any building can be declared a prison by the governor, a role held by the British high commissioner to New Zealand. Pitcairn law is a combination of island-specific laws known as ordinances, United Kingdom legislation and council rules extended to Pitcairn, and common law.

Islanders speak English and "Pitkern", a creole of old English dialects and Tahitian.

Michael Warren, a former mayor of Pitcairn, at an Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, 2009.

Michael Warren, a former mayor of Pitcairn, at an Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, 2009.

Remote Pitcairn Island is home to about 50 people.
MICHAEL DUNNING

Remote Pitcairn Island is home to about 50 people.

 - Stuff

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