This article will provide guidance on how to serve legal papers in the Pitcairn Islands. Located in the southern Pacific Ocean, the Pitcairn Islands are the only British Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean and are a collection of four volcanic islands. At eighteen square miles in total land area, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno are the four islands that makeup Pitcairn Island. Pitcairn is the world’s least populated country. Click here for How the Hague Convention Simplifies International Process Service.

International Process Service


A British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific, the Pitcairn Islands have a population of about fifty people. The mayor serves as the head of government in the islands, governed by a parliamentary representative democratic democracy. This region is governed by the Local Government Ordinance enacted in 1964. The Pitcairn Islands have the world’s smallest democracy in terms of population.  Click Here for information on the Code of Civil Procedure in the Pitcairn Islands.

Auckland, New Zealand, is where the government’s administrative headquarters are located.  The Governor’s representative to the territory is a non-resident Commissioner chosen by the Governor. Additionally, they act as a liaison between the Governor and the Island Council, which oversees the island’s daily operations and economic development. Since 1999, Pitcairn’s mayor has taken responsibility for the island’s day-to-day operations since the island’s governor and the commissioner does not reside there. The Governor appoints the Island Magistrate, while Internal Committee Chairpersons are chosen by their peers. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

The island’s mayor is chosen for a three-year term by the island’s people. The Pitcairn Islands’ Attorney General position is held by a person selected by the government of Pitcairn in accordance with Section 35 of the Pitcairn Islands Constitution. It acts as the government’s primary legal advisor. Pitcairn ordinances are drafted by the Attorney General, who also has the authority and responsibility to revise and publish any laws that apply to the nation.

One-third of the Pitcairn Island Council is elected directly by the people, with the other three-quarters appointed by the Governor, including the Island Secretary (ex officio). A Commissioner (non-resident) sits in the tenth seat, reserved for liaisons between the Council and Governor. Members’ terms are one year, except for the mayor’s three-year tenure and the Island Secretary’s indefinite tenure. 

For councilors and the deputy mayor, elections are conducted every two years, while for the mayor, they are held once every three years. Elections were born on December 24 before a constitutional amendment. The islands have no political parties.

A non-resident island magistrate has presided over the island court numerous times in the past five years. The governor selects the island magistrate for a three-year tenure.  A supreme court was established under Pitcairn Process Service law, but no justices were ever nominated, and the court never convened. Although the Court was activated as part of the constitutional and judicial plans for the trial mentioned above, it was not used.

In contrast to the Supreme Court, established in 1897, the Court of Appeal was established in 1898. As per Pitcairn Process Service regulations, both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal may convene on the islands or in any other country or location authorized by law. On Pitcairn, the Supreme Court has sat, whereas the Court of Appeal has only sat in Auckland, New Zealand, in practice.

Pitcairn’s highest court, the Privy Council, hears all final appeals. An Order in Council made in 2000 legally-established appeals to the Privy Council as an appellate jurisdiction, which had previously existed under common law. Almost all of the attorneys admitted to the Pitcairn Bar are New Zealanders, and the members of the Pitcairn judiciary are all current or former members of the court or legal profession in New Zealand.

Since 2003, the Pitcairn Islands have had a Public Defender on staff to represent the public interest. This is the only surviving British Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean. The Governor of Pitcairn represents the British monarch. However, the colonial governor retains substantial power in Pitcairn.

Pitcairn never had a resident governor since the British didn’t think it was necessary due to the dependency’s tiny population (it peaked in the 1930s at 233 and has since dropped to 50). From 1898 forward, the Governor of Fiji also served as the Governor of Pitcairn. Pitcairn Island’s administration was handed over to the British high commissioner to New Zealand when Fiji gained independence in 1970. Laura Clarke is the current occupant of the post.

The British governor’s power was only nominal throughout most of its existence. While Governor of the Pitcairn Islands from 2001 until 2006, Richard Fell used his position to remove Mayor Steve Christian, a defendant in the 2004 rape trial on the island.


Pitcairn Process Service is a practice used to convey notice of a first legal action to another party (such as a defendant), court, or administrative body so that that person may react to the proceeding before the court, body, or other tribunals. By delivering a collection of Pitcairn Process Service court papers (referred to as ‘process’) to the person to be served, process service is carried out by a service agent.

An international treaty signed on November 15, 1965, at the Hague Conference on Private International Law in the Netherlands, the Hague Service Convention, mandates Pitcairn process servers in civil and commercial disputes. It was created to provide a reliable and effective method of serving the Pitcairn Process Service papers on parties that reside, operate, or are located outside the United States. Civil and commercial Pitcairn Process Service is covered under the treaty, but criminal process service is not. It also does not apply if the individual does not know who they are serving the paper on since it would violate the Convention.

The Central Authority of the State addressed must serve the document or arrange for an appropriate agency to serve it, either by a method prescribed by its internal law for the service of documents in domestic actions upon persons within its territory or by a process requested by the applicant, unless such a method is incompatible with the law of the State addressed.

There must be an official Pitcairn language or one of Pitcairn’s official languages if the document is to be serviced by the Central Authority. With the Hague Service Convention, service of process in other contracting nations has been made easier. A central body is responsible for accepting service requests for each contracting state. The central authority of the state where service is to be made may be contacted immediately by a judicial officer authorized to serve Pitcairn Process Service in the state of origin. The receiving state’s centralized authority handles requests for Pitcairn Process Service in the receiving form, generally via a local court. The central authority delivers a certificate of service to the judicial officer who requested it after service has been completed and verified.

Pitcairn Process Service may be accomplished under the Hague Convention, including via the postal system, diplomatic/consular agents, judges, government officials, and other appropriately qualified individuals. Member nations may or may not approve these provisions as a lawful method of serving the Pitcairn Process Service papers in their jurisdiction under Articles 8 to 10. Using the Central Agency (Article 5) to provide Pitcairn Process Service papers is not a choice for any member country but rather a requirement. As a general rule, the Central Agency’s services take four to twelve months to complete. Even if the plaintiffs have not obtained a certificate of service or delivery from the Central Agency after six months, the convention provides them with a remedy. A fair amount of time has passed, and the Court may render its decision in such circumstances. The court may also grant a temporary injunction or protective measure even before the six-month waiting period has expired in cases of urgency.

States that have not objected to Pitcairn Process Service by mail under Article 10(a) of the convention and jurisdictions that accept it under relevant law are eligible for service by mail. Legal proceedings need service, but cross-border cases necessitate expensive and time-consuming service. With the Service Convention, a consistent framework is set up to expedite and streamline the channels of transmission for judicial or extrajudicial papers served abroad to simplify this procedure even more.

A central transmission channel is established between the Contracting Parties, although the Convention allows for the use of other channels. There are no substantive regulations in the Convention pertaining to the actual serving of Pitcairn Process Service, which is the primary focus of this agreement.

As a result of the Convention, there are two routes for transmitting documents that contain Pitcairn Process Service: direct diplomatic or consular channels and the postal track. A further step that the Convention does not control is necessary for all other transmission channels to accomplish service to the final recipient.


If a judicial or extrajudicial document must be sent from one Contracting Party to another for service, the person’s address to be served is known. The document to be served pertains to a civil or commercial issue; the Convention will kick in. In other words, if these conditions are satisfied, one must use the transmission channels specified by the Convention. When discussing the need for the transmission to another Contracting Party, it’s vital to recall that the forum’s law will ultimately establish whether or not Pitcairn Process Service is required.

Central Authority of the Contracting Party in which Pitcairn Process Service is to be performed receives a request for service from an authority or judicial officer competent in one Contracting Party (Art. 5). The bid must adhere to the Convention’s Model Form.

A competent official must carry out the Pitcairn Process Service of a document in accordance with local legislation of the requesting Contracting Party (Art. 5). Insofar as it is not in conflict with the legislation of the requested Contracting Party, the applicant (i.e., the forwarding authority of the requesting Contracting Party) may request that a particular method or process be utilized.

If Pitcairn Process Service was not completed, an explanation for why must be included in the certificate appended to the Convention.

Transmission across a different channel does not imply a worse Pitcairn Process Service quality, and there is no hierarchy of transmission channels. They may object to using other channels by a Contracting Party (Art. 10 Defendants are shielded against default judgment under the Convention, regardless of how the case is transmitted. To avoid a default decision, it is necessary to prove that service under the Convention was successful (Art. 15). A defendant may appeal a decision that has already been entered against them(Art. 16).

Central authorities are established in all Contracting Parties under the Convention. When a request is made for Pitcairn Process Service of papers, a Central Authority’s primary function is to either serve them or make arrangements for them to be served. Furthermore, the Convention allows Contracting Parties to designate other authorities and to establish the range of their competencies. It is possible for Contracting Parties to transmit and execute requests using current technology since the Convention’s wording is technology agnostic. Contracting Parties are expected to adhere to their legal frameworks when it comes to this.

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1. Only Pitcairn Island is populated on Henderson Island, accounting for 86% of the total area. Mangareva (French Polynesia) and Easter Island (Easter Island) are the closest islands to the Pitcairn Islands.

2. It is clear from the surnames of many of the islanders that the majority of the people of Pitcairn Island are descended from nine Bounty mutineers and a small number of Tahitian consorts. Many novels and films have been written on this legendary revolt and its aftermath. Only 47 people lived in the area as of January 2020.

3. Governor of the Pitcairn Islands and British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, now represents Her Majesty the Queen

4. Brenda Christian, Brenda Christian’s sister, was chosen mayor of the island council for the months of November and December 2004. On December 15, 2004, Jay Warren was sworn in as a United States Senator. Charlene Warren-Peu is now serving as the city’s mayor

5. It was once referred to as the Legal Adviser that the Attorney General served as.

6. The most recent elections took place on November 12th, 2013.

7. There are now three judges in the judiciary:

  1. John Blackie is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
  2. John Henry is the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals.
  3. Sir Ian Barker and Paul Neazor sit on the Court of Appeal.
  4. Russell Johnson and Jane Lovell-Smith are Supreme Court justices.

Additional magistrate appointments have been made from within the ranks of New Zealand’s most prominent lawyers. Simon Moore, the Pitcairn Public Prosecutor (and Auckland Crown Solicitor), and Paul Dacre, the Pitcairn Public Defender, were both named. In the Pitcairn Islands, there are no attorneys, according to a 2012 report.

8. As long as the document’s recipient freely accepts it, the document may be served in accordance.

9. Article 5

 The Central Authority of the State addressed shall itself serve the document or shall arrange to have it served by an appropriate agency, either –

 a) by a method prescribed by its internal law for the service of documents in domestic actions upon persons who are within its territory, or 

b) by a particular method requested by the applicant, unless such a method is incompatible with the law of the State addressed. Subject to subparagraph (b) of the first paragraph of this Article, the document may always be served by delivery to an addressee who accepts it voluntarily. Suppose

the document is to be served under the first paragraph above. In that case, the Central Authority may require the document to be written in, or translated into, the official language or one of the State’s official languages addressed. In the form attached to the present Convention, that part of the request, which contains a summary of the document to be served, shall be served with the document.

10. Articles 8 and 9 allow Contracting Parties to use diplomatic or consular channels; Article 10(a) allows them to use postal channels; Article 10(b) will enable them to use direct communication between judges, officials, or other competent persons; and Article 10(c) allows them to use direct contact with interested parties.

11. Article 15

Where a writ of summons or an equivalent document had to be transmitted abroad for service, under the provisions of the present Convention, and the defendant has not appeared, judgment shall not be given until it is established that –

a)  the document was served by a method prescribed by the internal law of the State addressed for the service of documents in domestic actions upon persons who are within its territory, or
b)  the document was actually delivered to the defendant or to his residence by another method provided for by this Convention,

and that in either of these cases, the service or the delivery was effected in sufficient time to enable the defendant to defend.

Each Contracting State shall be free to declare that the judge, notwithstanding the provisions of the first paragraph of this Article, may give judgment even if no certificate of service or delivery has been received, if all the following conditions are fulfilled –

a)  the document was transmitted by one of the methods provided for in this Convention,
b)  a period of time of not less than six months, considered adequate by the judge in the particular case, has elapsed since the date of the transmission of the document,
c)  no certificate of any kind has been received, even though every reasonable effort has been made to obtain it through the competent authorities of the State addressed.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraphs, the judge may order any provisional or protective measures in case of urgency.

12.Article 16

When a writ of summons or an equivalent document had to be transmitted abroad for service, under the provisions of the present Convention, and a judgment has been entered against a defendant who has not appeared, the judge shall have the power to relieve the defendant from the effects of the expiration of the time for appeal from the judgment if the following conditions are fulfilled –

a)  the defendant, without any fault on his part, did not have knowledge of the document, insufficient time to defend or knowledge of the judgment, insufficient time to appeal, and

b)  the defendant has disclosed a prima facie defense to the action on the merits.

An application for relief may be filed only within a reasonable time after the defendant knows the judgment.

Each Contracting State may declare that the application will not be entertained if it is filed after the expiration of a time to be stated in the declaration, but which shall in no case be less than one year following the date of the judgment.

This Article shall not apply to judgments concerning the status or capacity of persons.


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