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rape conviction

Politics of the Pitcairn Islands

Politics of the Pitcairn Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Mayor is the head of government. The territories constitution is the Local Government Ordinance of 1964. In terms of population, the Pitcairn Islands is the smallest democracy in the world.

Executive branch

|Queen |Elizabeth II | |6 February 1952 |- |Governor |George Fergusson | |2 May 2006 |- |Commissioner (non-resident) |Leslie Jaques | |September 2003 |- |Mayor |Mike Warren | |9 December 2007 |} The Queen is represented by the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, who is the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, currently George Fergusson. The Governor's Representative is the liaison person between the governor and the Island Council - this is probably the most remote and inaccessible diplomatic posting in the world. The non-resident Commissioner, appointed by the Governor, is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the island as well as for its economic regeneration. But because the high commissioner does not live on the island, its daily affairs are taken care of by the mayor of Pitcairn from 1999 onwards. Island Magistrate is a governor appointed job. Chairman of the Internal Committee is an elected official. Until 30 October 2004, the mayor was Steve Christian; after his rape conviction on October 24 2004, Christian was dismissed (after refusing to resign). Brenda Christian was selected by the Island Council, to be mayor for November and December 2004, until an election was held. Jay Warren was elected on December 15 2004. The island Mayor is elected by popular vote for a three-year term.

Legislative branch

The Pitcairn Islands have a unicameral Island Council (10 seats - The Mayor and the Chairman of the Island Council both hold membership ex officio; 4 elected by popular vote, 1 co-opted by the Chairman and the 4 other elected members; 2 appointed by the Governor including the Island Secretary (ex officio); the tenth seat is reserved for a Commissioner (non-resident) who liaises between the Council and the Governor. Except for the Mayor, who has a three year term, and the Island Secretary, whose term is indefinite, members serve one-year terms.

Political parties and elections

Council elections are held on 24 December every year. See: Pitcairn Islands election, 2004, Pitcairn Islands election, 2005, Pitcairn Islands general election, 2006 and Pitcairn Islands general election, 2007. Due to its size, this tiny democracy, indeed, the world's smallest democracy in terms of population, doesn't have political parties.

Judicial branch

  • Island Court: the island magistrate, appointed by the Governor for a three-year term usually presides over the court, however there has been several non-resident magistrates over the last five years. These magistrates were appointed as part of the judicial structure set up for the purposes of the Pitcairn sexual assault trials.
  • Supreme Court: while Pitcairn law has made provision for a Supreme Court for a number of years, the court itself formerly existed only on paper - no judges were appointed to it and it never sat. However, the Court was properly activated as part of the constitutional and judicial arrangements put in place for the trial referred to above.
  • Court of Appeal: unlike the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal is a recent creation having not formerly existed under Pitcairn law. It was established by an Order in Council in 2000 in preparation for the above trials. Allowances have also been made for both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal to sit in the islands or at such other country or place as may be permitted by any law. In practice, the Supreme Court has sat both on Pitcairn itself as well as in Auckland, New Zealand, while the Court of Appeal has only sat in New Zealand.
  • Privy Council: the Privy Council is the final court of appeal for Pitcairn, while Pitcairn itself is one of the final jurisdictions to permit appeals to the Privy Council. While some appellate jurisdiction may previously have existed (through common law), appeal to the Privy Council were formally permitted by the issuance of an Order in Council in 2000.

The members of the Pitcairn judiciary are all New Zealanders - as are almost all of the lawyers admitted to the Pitcairn Bar - and are all either current or former members of the judiciary, or legal profession (in the case of the magistrates) in that country.

Currently, the members of the judiciary are:

  • Chief Justice: John Blackie.
  • President of the Court of Appeal: John Henry.
  • Judges of the Court of Appeal: Sir Ian Barker, Paul Neazor.
  • Judges of the Supreme Court: Jane Lovell-Smith, Russell Johnson, Adam Learoyd.

Additionally, several magistrates have been appointed from amongst the ranks of the senior members of the legal profession in New Zealand. The Pitcairn Public Prosecutor - Simon Moore (also the Crown Solicitor at Auckland) and Public Defender - Paul Dacre - were also appointed.

International organization participation

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