Colston 4: All defendants found not guilty of criminal damage over toppling of Edward Colston statue

Sage Willoughby, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, and Jake Skuse were cleared by a jury at Bristol Crown Court

Four people have been cleared of criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston.

They were all accused of damaging the statue in June 2020. Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, by helping to topple it and Jake Skuse, 33, by orchestrating a plan to throw it in the harbour.

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But today (January 5), all four were found not guilty by a jury at Bristol Crown Court.

There were loud cheers from the packed public gallery after the not guilty verdicts were returned.

All four defendants admitted their involvement but denied their actions were criminal, claiming the statue itself had been a hate crime against the people of Bristol.

Left to right, Jake Skuse, Rhian Graham’s partner, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford and Sage Willoughby arrive at Bristol Crown Court

During the trial, which started before Christmas, a jury heard that the statue was pulled down before being thrown into the harbour during protests triggered by the murder of African-American George Floyd.

The four defendants were accused of damaging the Colston statue and plinth of a value unknown without lawful excuse.

Speaking after the case, Raj Chada, who represented Mr Skuse, said the defendants should never have been prosecuted.

He added: “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.”