7 Mar 2016

Ex-Pitcairn Mayor to appeal conviction

5:06 pm on 7 March 2016

The former mayor of the tiny Pacific Island community of Pitcairn downloaded over 1000 child-sex images and videos while he was involved in child protection work on the island.

Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn Island Photo: Sybil Sassoon / Robert Harding

Earlier this week Michael Warren was found guilty of 20 charges relating to his collection of child abuse images and two charges of possessing other indecent items.

He was sentenced on Saturday to 20 months in prison on Pitcairn, to begin when New Zealand prison officers arrived on the island.

Warren's lawyer Tony Ellis has told RNZ News that he would appeal the sentence and conviction. Pre-trial rulings would also be appealed and the matters could go all the way to the Privy Council.

The court heard how there were two sides to Warren - the church-going mayor and the man who downloaded images of children being sexually abused.

The Crown prosecutor Kieran Raftery said Warren began downloading the images in 2004 - the same year that seven men went on trial for historic child sex abuse.

Warren collected over 1000 images and videos, and collated them on his computer, external hard drives and CDs.

He also shared some of the pictures online.

Warren was also convicted for having a sex-chat with a person purporting to be a 15 year-old school-girl, and having a video of a bound and gagged naked woman who was likely injured as a result of what was done to her.

Warren downloaded much of this material while he was mayor of the tiny island. He made trips to New Zealand and United Kingdom in his official capacity where the Crown said he underwent child protection training in the aftermath of the Pitcairn sex abuse trials.

Mr Raftery said Warren committed the crimes while others on the island tried to improve the community's reputation.

He said Warren knew the community would not survive unless more children were born on the island or emigrated with their parents. But he sited a report from the Deputy Governor of Pitcairn, Kevin Lynch, who said some people interested in emigrating had been put off since Warren's charges came to light.

There are signs of change on the island. One of the men who performed the role of assessor last week and judged Warren to have been in possession of grossly obscene items was one of the men jailed for child abuse in 2004.

Warren's lawyer Tony Ellis had asked for home or community detention.

He also submitted a statement from Warren's 87 year-old mother. Warren lives with her and is her main caregiver.

She said her son was her only hope and she could not support herself.

"If he's sent to prison, you might as well also prepare a grave to put me in," she said.

Mr Ellis pointed to the 2004 child sex abuse trial and said a man who had been convicted of five rapes was sentenced to three years in prison. He said it would be disproportionate to send his client to prison for photos and videos of child abuse.

Sending Warren to jail would be problematic because he would be the only prisoner and effectively be in solitary confinement, he said.

But Judge Tompkins found jail was the only proper response.

He said Warren had no insight into his offending and the effects it had on the children every time the pictures were downloaded.

His sentence will begin in about six month's time, once prison officers from New Zealand travel to the island. Warren would also be subjected to a seven year extended supervision order which would see him being monitored by authorities and restrict what he can do.

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