Privy Council dismisses Lovells’ legal validity defence in Pitcairn rape case

Lovells suffered a defeat in the Privy Council at the end of last month (30 October) after acting pro bono for four Pitcairn islanders accused of rape, indecent assault and incest.

Litigation partner Rosalind Reston (who has since retired from the firm) defended the men as they took their appeal against conviction to the highest possible court. It was the first time that a case emanating from the remote island had reached this level.

The six defendants appealed against the validity of the laws that created the offences under which they were charged, and whether there was an abuse of process in bringing the prosecutions.

Lords Hoffmann, Woolf, Steyn, Hope of Craighead and Carswell ruled that the use of English law in Pitcairn was correct. Woolf said: “In my view, the evidence that Pitcairn is and was at all relevant times a British possession was overwhelming.”

Derry Moloney of Privy Council agents Alan Taylor & Co represented the remaining two defendants in the appeal, while insolvency and local government specialists Moon Beever acted for the Crown.

Moon Beever has represented the New Zealand government in a number of cases during the past 15 years and was instructed in the Pitcairn case by the New Zealand Crown Solicitors on behalf of the Queen.

Pitcairn was first colonised by mutineers from HMS Bounty in 1790 and now has a small population that includes many direct descendants of those mutineers.