Politics

Colston 4 lawyer reveals ‘main’ argument that swayed jurors in controversial statue case

Edward Colston statue: Lawyer on 'main argument' for verdict

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Raj Chada represented Jake Skuse, one of four people who went on trial for criminal damage, and explained his reason for why jurors cleared the group known as the Colston Four. Mr Chada suggested the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was a “criminal offence” in itself and the Bristol Council’s lack of action was also a criminal offence. The lawyer also dismissed criticisms that the case set a legal precedent for more statues to be toppled with Mr Chada saying this case was “turned on its own facts”.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, host Matt Frei spoke with Mr Chada about the case and asked what he thought “swayed the jury” to clear the group.

He replied: “There were a number of arguments but the main one is the offensive nature of the statue.

“That here in the middle of Bristol, this person who had enslaved hundreds of thousands of people was venerated.

“There was no context, there was a plaque that said that he was one of the noblest and wisest sons of Bristol.

“And really, I think it was about the offensive nature and hence, the statue itself, or its presence was a criminal offence and the failure to take action, it was the one that was committing the criminal offence.”

Mr Frei wondered if the decision could set a precedent for other legal cases involving statues and referred to the statue of Winston Churchill which has been vandalised in the past.

The lawyer added: “There is no legal precedent created by this case which very much turns on its own facts.

“And it turns on what the jury heard, and what the jury heard… was the evidence… about the slave trade, but also the inaction of Bristol City Council over many, many years.”

Edward Colston statue: Protesters cleared of criminal damage

Sage Willoughby, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, and Jake Skuse were charged after the statue was illegally removed during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city.

In a statement, Mr Chada, who represented Jake Skuse, said: “The truth is that the defendants should never have been prosecuted.

“It is shameful that Bristol City Council did not take down the statue of slaver Edward Colston that had caused such offence to people in Bristol and equally shameful that they then supported the prosecution of these defendants.”

The four people were cleared of criminal damage after a statue of Edward Colston was thrown into Bristol harbour in June 2020.

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CCTV video was shown during the trial which showed each of the defendants taking part in toppling the statue.

Bristol council’s head of culture, Jon Finch, confirmed £350 damage to the harbour railings and £2,400 damage to the pavement was done during the toppling.

Prosecutor William Hughes opened the case back in mid-December by saying: “We accept that Edward Colston was a divisive figure, however, we say what Edward Colston may or may not have done, good or bad [is] not on trial and [is] not an issue for you, these four defendants are.”

Mr Hughes added the fact Edward Colston was a slave trader was “wholly irrelevant”.

Liam Walker, who represented Mr Willoughby, said: “Each of these defendants was on the right side of history, and I submit, they were also on the right side of the law.

“Colston’s deeds may be historical but the continued veneration of him in this city was not. The continued veneration of him in a vibrant multicultural city was an act of abuse.”

Defender Mr Ponsford also told jurors: “I thought that a statue that celebrates a figure such as Colston was disgraceful and offensive to the people of Bristol.”

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