Politics of the Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific Ocean, with a population of about 50. The politics of the islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Mayor is the head of government. The territory's constitution is the Local Government Ordinance of 1964. In terms of population, the Pitcairn Islands is the smallest democracy in the world.[1]

The government's administrative offices are in Auckland, New Zealand.[2]

Executive branch

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
King Charles III (None) 8 September 2022
Governor (non-res.) Iona Thomas (None) 9 August 2022
Administrator (non-res.) Nicholas Kennedy (None) August 2018
Mayor Charlene Warren-Peu (None) 1 January 2020

The King is represented by the Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, who is the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.[3] A non-resident Commissioner, appointed by the Governor, serves as the Governor's Representative to the territory. The Commissioner is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the island as well as for its economic regeneration, and also serves as the liaison between the Governor and the Island Council. As both the Governor and the Commissioner do not live on the island, its daily affairs have since 1999 been taken care of by the mayor of Pitcairn. The Island Magistrate is appointed by the Governor. The Chairman of the Internal Committee is an elected official.

Until 30 October 2004, the mayor was Steve Christian; after his rape conviction on 24 October 2004, Christian was dismissed (after refusing to resign). His sister 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 15 December 2004. The island Mayor is elected by popular vote for a three-year term. The current mayor is Charlene Warren-Peu.[4]

Attorney General of the Pitcairn Islands

The Attorney General of the Pitcairn Islands is appointed under Section 35 of the Pitcairn Islands Constitution and serves as the principal legal adviser to the government of Pitcairn for a set term. Initially, the Attorney General was referred to as the Legal Adviser.[5] The Attorney General's powers and responsibilities include handling criminal matters, drafting Pitcairn ordinances, and revising and publishing any laws that pertain to the country.[6]

Attorney General – Pitcairn Islands (Complete Table)
Name Term
Donald A. McLoughlin[5] c. 1958–1979
Paul Treadwell[5] c. 1979–2007
Paul Rishworth[7] c. 2007–2015
Simon Mount[8] c. 2015–

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. Last elections were held on 12 November 2013.[9][10][11]

Elections are held every two years for councillors and deputy mayor and every three years for the mayor. Before a change in the Constitution, elections were held every year on 24 December. There are no political parties on the islands.

Judicial branch

  • Island Court: the island magistrate, appointed by the Governor for a three-year term, usually presides over the court; however there have 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, no judges were appointed to it and it never sat. However, the Court was 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. It was established by an Order in Council in 2000 in preparation for the above trial. Allowance has also been made for both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal to sit either 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 some appellate jurisdiction may previously have existed (through common law), appeals to the Privy Council were formally permitted by an Order in Council issued 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.

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 DefenderPaul Dacre – were also appointed.

According to a 2012 report, there are no lawyers in the Pitcairn Islands.[12] There has been a Public Defender serving the islands since 2003.

See also


  1. "Pitcairn's Bounty". The Economist. 26 October 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  2. "Home." Government of the Pitcairn Islands. Retrieved on 31 October 2011.
  3. "Pitcairn Islands Government 2020". 27 January 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  4. Vance, Andrea (7 November 2019). "Charlene Warren-Peu, Pitcairn Island's first female mayor". Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  5. Eshleman, Michael O. (Winter 2012). "The New Pitcairn Islands Constitution: Strong, Empty Words for Britain's Smallest Colony". Pace International Law Review. 24:1.
  7. "New Zealand Law Society". www.lawsociety.org.nz. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. "Alumni appointed Queen's Counsel – The University of Auckland". www.law.auckland.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  9. "Electoral Calendar -worldwide elections". www.mherrera.org.
  10. "Meralda Warren's Facebook". Facebook.
  11. "Pitcairn News - News and Information about Pitcairn Island". www.pitcairnnews.co.nz.
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