Justice at last for children of the Bounty

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Jeanie and Isobel, who grew up on Pitcairn Island, were seven and nine years old when Brian Young, a neighbour, began assaulting them. He would call at the sisters' house and ask their mother's permission to take them off on his motorbike, supposedly to fetch firewood. Then he would drive them to an old hut in a remote part of the South Pacific island and rape them, one after the other.

The weekly attacks continued for two years, until Jeanie and Isobel's family moved to New Zealand in the early 1970s. The girls never told anyone, because they were frightened of Young. Besides, there was no one to tell. Although Pitcairn was a British territory, Britain had shown little interest in it, leaving the island – an isolated chunk of rock inhabited by the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and only accessible by longboat – to run itself.

Horrific as Jeanie's and Isobel's experiences were, they were typical of what girls growing up on Pitcairn – home to just 51 people – endured for generations. In 2006, after an investigation by British police, Young was convicted of raping the sisters. In total, nine Pitcairn men were found guilty, six of them at trials in 2004 on the island.

In Britain, victims of sexual abuse are entitled to statutory damages under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS). However, the scheme does not apply to the overseas territories, and the British Government – despite its historic neglect of the island – refused to compensate the Pitcairn women. They engaged a New Zealand QC, and earlier this year, with Britain still stonewalling, threatened to launch a class action.

Now their efforts have borne fruit. Meg Munn, the Foreign Office minister responsible for the territories, is expected to announce this week that the nine women who testified will be offered compensation. Another 17 women, who gave statements to police but declined to go to court, could potentially be eligible, too.

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