Edward Colston statue: Protesters cleared of criminal damage
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Radical left-wingers celebrated after four people charged with tearing down a statue of the English philanthropist and slave trader Edward Colston were cleared of wrongdoing. The verdict sparked widespread concern it has set a precedent that criminal damage was no longer an automatic offence.
Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling the statue down during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020.
They threw the statue into Bristol’s harbourside after it was defaced.
Labour MPs claimed the outcome was proof “the real criminal act were the deeds” of Edward Colston.
Reacting with outrage, Sir John Hayes, the highly respected Conservative MP who chairs the influential Common Sense Group, accused those who revelled in the outcome of not respecting “rule of law”.
He told Express.co.uk: “The Labour Party of course has at best a confused relationship with law and order and this illustrates just that.
“To justify that kind of criminal behaviour and to celebrate this perverse decision shows why Labour are unfit to govern.
“It was a very bad day for the rule of law. At the end of the day if you deface or destroy someone else’s property, without their permission, you’re committing criminal damage. It’s a straightforward matter of fact.
“It doesn’t matter what you think about Colston, it’s not about Colston or about the particularity of the statue. It’s about criminal damage.”
He added: “I notice the shadow home secretary and leader of the opposition have said nothing about it.
“They must be deeply embarrassed by their colleagues who have.”
The day after the statue was torn down in 2020 Sir Keir, who used to be director of prosecutions, condemned the act.
However, he has not commented on the outcome of the court case since its verdict on Wednesday.
Among Labour MPs who did speak was Zarah Sultana, who said on social media: “Edward Colston was responsible for violently transporting 84,000 Africans to the Caribbean.
“They were chained, beaten and raped, with 19,000 dying en route.
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“Grotesquely, a statue was put up to honour him in Bristol, but today in court those who toppled it were rightly cleared.”
York Central MP Rachel Maskell said: “This verdict has started to confront the shameful past of colonial Britain, where statues were erected to veil the true characters of the people at the heart of slavery.
“Political propaganda was as live then as it is today.
“The real criminal act were the deeds of this man.”
Norwich South’s Clive Lewis said the verdict “confirmed the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue was not a criminal act”.
He added: “The real crime was the fact the statue was still there when protestors pulled it down.”
An estimated £3,750 of damage was done to the statue – including removing its staff and a coattail – and £350 of damage was caused to the railings of Pero’s Bridge.
Attorney General Suella Braverman today said the court verdict risked causing “confusion” and she is “carefully considering” whether to use powers which allow her to seek a review so senior judges have the chance to “clarify the law for future cases”.
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