Four deny damaging statue of slave trader Edward Colston

Legal firm vows to fight charges ‘vigorously’

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 02 March 2021 16:18 GMT
The Edward Colston statue at the feet of protesters after it was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter rally
The Edward Colston statue at the feet of protesters after it was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter rally (Ben Birchall/PA)

Four people have denied toppling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21, who were charged with criminal damage, appeared before Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave merchant was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June last year, before it was thrown in Bristol harbour and later recovered by Bristol City Council.

It is alleged that the four defendants, without lawful excuse, jointly and with others, damaged the statue of Edward Colston, a listed monument belonging to Bristol City Council.

It is claimed the group committed the offence "intending to destroy or damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged".

All four defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge during the hearing at Bristol Crown Court.

Judge Peter Blair QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said he would preside over a trial of the case.

He told the defendants: "You have pleaded not guilty and therefore I am fixing a trial date of 13 December for you which you must attend without fail on that day and the subsequent days.

"We estimate that it will go into a second week. I am suggesting probably setting aside seven to eight days so you need to make sure that your diaries are so arranged.

"There will be a hearing on 8 November to take stock of the case and make sure that everyone is working successfully towards your trial date.

"You don't have to attend but you may attend if you wish. Your counsel may attend by video link.

"You are on unconditional bail and that will continue, so you are free to leave."

Ahead of the hearing Hodge Jones & Allen, the legal firm representing three of the four defendants, released a statement, in which it said it would fight the charges "vigorously".

"We are committed to defending them and their right to a fair trial in this important case. We ask that their privacy is respected," it said.

The next hearing in the case will take place on 8 November at Bristol Crown Court.

Ms Graham is of Colston Road, Bristol; Mr Ponsford is of Bishopstoke, Hampshire; Mr Skuse is of Farley Close, Bristol, and Mr Willoughby is of Gloucester Road, Bristol.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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