Slave Trader Edward Colston ‘Is Not on Trial’ Prosecutor Reminds Statue-Toppling Jury in Bristol
17:01 GMT 13.12.2021 (Updated: 10:39 GMT 01.03.2022)
Edward Colston was a wealthy slave trader who became one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. A bronze statue, erected in 1895, was toppled by a crowd in the centre of the English city of Bristol in June 2020 and later thrown into the docks.
A jury trying four people accused of toppling the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol has been reminded that he himself is not on trial.
William Hughes QC, prosecuting, said: ”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."
Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Jake Skuse, 33, and Sage Willoughby, 22, have all denied criminal damage.
On 7 June 2020 the so-called Colston Four are alleged to have “jointly with each other and others unknown without lawful excuse” damaged the statue, which belonged to Bristol City Council.
The statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter rally in Bristol, which followed global protests about the death in the US of George Floyd.
Mr Hughes said Ms Graham confirmed to police it was her in footage and said the statue was a "massive offence" to the people of Bristol.
Mr Hughes said Ponsford and Willoughby were messaging each other on the day and he said “those messages confirm their involvement in pulling the statue down.”
On 11 June the statue was recovered from the shallow waters of Bristol Docks and it has since been put on display in the nearby M-Shed museum.
But Mr Hughes said Bristol City Council had not granted permission to alter or remove it and the total damage done to the statue and its railings was £4,100.
The trial is expected to last a week and the Colston Four have been backed by supporters outside Bristol Crown Court.