Labour MP attacks Attorney General for 'playing politics' with Colston statue verdict
By SEAMLESS DAILY
08 January 2022
The Attorney General is "carefully considering" whether to refer the Bristol Edward Colston statue case to the Court of Appeal.
Four people were cleared of criminal damage at Bristol Crown Court for toppling the monument in June 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest.
Milo Ponsford, 26, Rhian Graham, 30, Jake Skuse, 33, and Sage Willoughby, 22, were charged after the memorial to the slave trader was toppled on 7 June 2020.
The statue was thrown into Bristol's harbour shortly after.
The defendants claimed in court that the presence of the statue was a hate crime and it was therefore not an offence to remove it.
Colston was a member of the Royal African Company, which transported about 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas.
Several MPs expressed concern after Thursday's verdict, including former communities secretary Robert Jenrick.
"If you 've broken the law and committed criminal damage you should be punished," he tweeted.
"If the jury is a barrier to ensuring they are punished then that needs to be addressed."
Raj Chada, who represented Mr Skuse, said the "defendants should never have been prosecuted".
"And when I saw the reaction to Colston I had flashbacks to those times.
They admitted the damage but said they had acted to prevent its use in the bombing of East Timor by Indonesia, which contravened international law.
In our case the evidence was around the things we'd done beforehand to try and get this crop stopped, and in the Colston case it was the campaigns that had been going on for years to try and get this statue removed."
Ian Bray, a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion ( XR ) who has twice been acquitted by jurors – once in the DLR trial and once in April last year after damaging Shell's London headquarters – said juries understood that "not all damage is the same" but it also came down to luck.
“ You ’ ve got to get at least three jurors who won ’ t convict.
"It's very hard to calculate," said Bray.
The defence of proportionality was subsequently used in the DLR and Colston cases.
Kirsty Brimelow QC, the vice-chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said : "This wasn't a rebellion.
Juries will continue making their decisions on the lives of those placed in their hands on the facts of the cases and within the protection of the law for both defendants and prosecution.
“ And he was basically shut down. ” More than a century on, the fight this quiet reverend started was, this week, perhaps finally won when four protestors charged with criminal damage for pulling down Colston's city centre statue were exonerated before a court of law.
It went in the water and everyone went home. ” Within weeks of the action, some 70 statues of people linked to the slave trade were removed across the UK.
In Bristol, itself, the slaver ’ s name was erased from all those roads, schools and buildings.
The decision by a jury in Bristol to acquit the "Colston Four" of criminal damage, following their role in the toppling of a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in June 2020, is a welcome sign that Britain is changing.
“ Are we all allowed to tear down any statue we disagree with ? ” His own colleague, Richard Eddy, once said that if a new plaque detailing Colston's involvement in the slave trade was added to the statue – as was once proposed – people would be within their rights to rip the plaque down.
While the group- which runs nine schools and manages 220 acres of city park- has now said it is right the statue hascome down, campaigners have begun to question why such an inherently opaque organisation appears to hold such sway in the city?
some people are sympathetic at the statue being pulled down in the way it happened.
In the 17th century Colston was one of Britain's wealthiest slave traders.
The prosecution should never have been brought, and perhaps would not have been had the home secretary, Priti Patel, and other ministers, been less vociferous in their condemnations of the protests, which culminated in Colston's statue being dumped in the harbour.
The verdict is not, as one of the defendants herself pointed out, a green light to "start pulling down all the statues in the UK".
His monument belongs to a specific time and place – and is now in a Bristol museum, thus demolishing the idea that taking it down was an effort to “ erase ” the past.
Yet up to now, the government has set its face against anything that might make heritage less celebratory, condemning as "woke" all attempts to place artefacts such as those that fill British country houses ( and city squares ) in a broader context.
But acknowledging historic injustices is part of building a more equal society today.
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