BLM Statue Toppling: Colston Four Case Found Not Guilty
Four protestors accused of tearing down Robert Colston’s statue have been acquitted after jurors were told by a defence lawyer to be “on the right side of history”.
A jury at Bristol Crown Court has cleared Jake Skuse, 33, Rhian Graham, 30, Sage Willoughby, 22 and Milo Ponsford, 26, of charges of criminal damage after a historical statue was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter-inspired protest in Bristol following a trial that lasted two weeks.
The statue of the 17th Century Merchant Robert Colston was toppled in June 2020, less than two weeks after the death of George Floyd in the United States.
At the time the Home Secretary, Priti Patel branded the toppling of Colston’s statue “utterly disgraceful”.
Defence barristers had argued that the Colston statue erected in 1895 had become inappropriate and offensive and also that people had previously signed petitions to have it removed, due to Colston’s controversial history, which they claim justified the actions of the four defendants, Sky News reports.
Liam Walker QC, who represented defendant Sage Willoughby, told the jury their decision would have a knock-on effect around the world.
“Make no mistake members of the jury, your decision is not just going to be felt in this courtroom or this city,” he said. “I urge you all to be on the right side of history.”
Walker is described by his legal chambers as a “leading barrister” who regularly defends “high media profile” clients for cases as serious as “terrorism” and “serious sexual offences”.
Tom Wainwright, representing defendant Milo Ponsford, told the court that Robert Colston was a “cancer” “festering” in the city of Bristol that needed to be cut out so the city “can heal”.
Wainright is advertised on his legal chambers’ website as the “go to person” for protest work.
The prosecution on the other hand argued that they did not dispute that Colston was involved in the slave trade, however, they highlighted that Colston’s character was not on trial, and each defendant was allegedly implicated in the evidence that had been shown to the court.
Following the acquittal, cheers were heard from the packed public gallery at Bristol Crown Court, and the four defendants laughed with relief and hugged supporters.