Colston defendant says juries and freedom of speech are ‘cornerstones of society’
One of four people cleared of charges related to dismantling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston said jury trials and free speech are “cornerstones of our society” amid a backlash on the verdict.
The bronze memorial to the 17th century figure was shot down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7, 2020, before being thrown into the water following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States.
Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, Jake Skuse, 33, were acquitted on Wednesday for criminal damages after an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.
The verdict sparked debate in the criminal justice system after the defendants, nicknamed the Colston Four, elected to stand trial by jury and did not deny their involvement in the incident.
Ms Graham told Times Radio: “Damaging things to be heard and to advance towards equality and a better society is nothing new.
“As a woman, I wouldn’t have the right to vote if the suffragists hadn’t left and smashed windows and destroyed mailboxes in the name of women’s suffrage.
“So it’s really nothing new. And obviously, we went through justice. I know there are a lot of people who say it was undemocratic.
“And, you know, what’s democratic is our freedom of speech and our jury trials. And one of our lawyers mentioned that those two things are really the cornerstones of our democracy.
“And what is really undemocratic are the displays of police brutality that we are seeing that have caused so much uproar within the BLM movement.”
Ms Graham also said she felt it was time for her to ‘show solidarity’ with black people in the UK, and the lockdown gave her the opportunity to reflect on the issues they faced .
It comes after Attorney General Suella Braverman said the verdict caused “confusion” and that she “is considering carefully” whether to use the powers that allow her to seek reconsideration.
Some lawyers have said it will be “Trumpian policy” and have called the fury over the acquittals “a complete waste of time” and undermining confidence in the justice system.
Opponents urged Ms Braverman not to “play political games when she doesn’t like results.”