By Hamish Cardwell of RNZ

Three New Zealanders have pleaded guilty to violent disorder charges after attacking patrons at a pub on the Falkland Islands.

They were part of a Sanford crew fishing on the San Aspiring in the South Atlantic Ocean since February, and were due to be repatriated when the assaults occurred.

The court was told the men - Sonny Ball, Samuel Goldsworthy, and Chassy Duncan - indiscriminately assaulted a group of customers in a bar after they were refused service because the premises was closed for the night.

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Penguin News deputy editor Roddy Cordeiro was in court and said five patrons were hospitalised, including one with a broken wrist, after the violent assaults.

During the attack, one of the defendants struck a woman who was cowering on the floor and another patron was struck with a glass.

The trio were denied bail because of the unprovoked nature of the attack and will be sentenced later this month.

They face up to two years in prison.

Sanford sent a vessel, the San Aotea II, early in June on a more than 50-day round trip to retrieve the crew after their usual route flight routes home became unavailable or unsafe because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month Sanford declined to say how much the mission would cost but said getting the fishers home to their families was the right thing to do.

The crew on the San Aspiring have been fishing for toothfish and doing scientific research since February.

Cordeiro said Falkland residents enjoyed the heart-warming story of the company sending a vessel to get the crew and it was a shame it had been overshadowed by the attacks.

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In a letter published in the Penguin News, Sanford chief executive Volker Kuntzsch apologised to the victims and Falkland Islands residents for the behaviour of the men.

He said the incident did not reflect Sanford's values.

"While we extend our sincerest apologies, we do not believe that simply saying sorry is good enough to move on from this painful and embarrassing situation. We will do better. Our New Zealand team is already working on identifying meaningful steps to support your community."

Sanford spokesperson Carly Sheehan said the company had offered the men assistance including providing a local lawyer to represent them.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade said no requests for consular assistance have been made regarding the men.

Sheehan said the San Aotea II started its journey back to New Zealand on 4 July with the remaining members of the fishing crew.

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It is also carrying two New Zealanders stranded in the Falklands since the Covid-19 lockdown.

- RNZ