The Attorney General has submitted questions to the Court of Appeal after ‘uncertainty’ over the criminal court case that saw the Colston 4 cleared of criminal damage in the toppling of the Edward Colston statue.
Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were acquitted of the charges at Bristol Crown Court following the incident in Bristol city centre in June 2020.
Now Suella Braverman QC MP, the Attorney General, has asked the Court of Appeal to review elements of the case after concluding it had led to ‘uncertainty’ about the interaction between the offence of criminal damage and the right to protest peacefully.
The process will not impact the acquittals, but allow senior judges to clarify points of law for future cases.
The Court of Appeal will be asked to clarify the law around whether someone can use a defence related to their human rights when they are accused of criminal damage.
In the Colston statue case, the judge directed the jury that before they could convict, they must be sure that doing so would be a ‘proportionate interference’ (or ‘compatible’) with the defendants’ exercise of their rights to freedom of thought and to freedom of expression - something else the Court will consider.
Commenting on her decision, the Attorney General said: “After careful consideration, I have decided to refer the Colston statue case to the Court of Appeal to clarify the law around protests.
“Trial by jury is an important guardian of liberty and critical to that are the legal directions given to the jury.
“It is in the public interest to clarify the points of law raised in these cases for the future. This is a legal matter which is separate from the politics of the case involved.”
Since 2000, there have been 19 instances of this power being used by Attorneys General.
The last time this power was used was in December 2020 when the Attorney clarified the law in relation to sexual assault.