'Confusing' Colston statue verdict being 'carefully considered' by Attorney General

7 January 2022, 11:02 | Updated: 7 January 2022, 11:25

Four people were yesterday cleared of criminal damage.
Four people were yesterday cleared of criminal damage. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

The verdict in the Colston statue case is "confusing" and the Attorney General is "carefully considering" whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

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The Bristol Colston statue case saw a jury clear four people of criminal damage for toppling the statute of the slave trader during the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020.

Writing on Twitter, Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, said: "Trial by jury is an important guardian of liberty and must not be undermined.

"However, the decision in the Colston statue case is causing confusion.

"Without affecting the result of this case, as Attorney General, I am able to refer matters to the Court of Appeal so that senior judges have the opportunity to clarify the law for future cases.

"I am carefully considering whether to do so."

Read more: Colston Four say 'we rectified history' as they're cleared over statue toppling

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were seen laughing and hugging supporters when the verdicts were returned, as cheers went up from the public gallery.

Following the verdict, Mr Willoughby said: "This is a victory for Bristol, this is a victory for racial equality and it's a victory for anybody who wants to be on the right side of history."

Colston was a merchant who lived in the 17th and early 18th century.

A statue of him was ripped down then dragged and rolled about 500 metres to be dumped in the harbour during a protest in Bristol.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday declined to comment on the verdict in the case.

Read more: 'We can't have mob rule', Grant Shapps tells LBC after Colston Four cleared

He said: "But what I would say is that my feeling is that we have a complex historical legacy all around us, and it reflects our history in all its diversity, for good or ill.

"What you can't do is go around seeking retrospectively to change our history or to bowdlerise it or edit it in retrospect.

"It's like some person trying to edit their Wikipedia entry - it's wrong."

The verdict sparked heated debate online, with supporters of the defendants, who claimed they have "rectified history", celebrating. But others have expressed frustration at the verdict, with one caller telling LBC it is an "absolute disgrace for British justice."

Transport Minister Grant Schapps told LBC: "We must live in a society where people can’t go around destroying public property and be able to walk away from it.

"If you want to take down a statue, if you want to change whats in the public realm, what's displayed, that’s absolutely legitimate.

"I've got no issue of that cause, of wanting to change what represents your city, through statues or anything else.

"But that is done through the ballot box, that is done through petitioning your local councillor.

"Get yourself elected, do it the right way, we can’t have mob rule as the way forward."

This story is being updated.

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