Bristol: Arrests as four charged with toppling Edward Colston statue plead not guilty

·1-min read

Supporters of four people appearing before Bristol magistrates charged with criminal damage in relation to the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston have been arrested for breaking lockdown rules.

Ahead of the hearing, Avon and Somerset Police had warned that anyone planning to attend to protest against the case would be breaking the law.

Four people, two men aged 43 and 68 and two women aged 59 and 60, were arrested, with formal warnings given to four others who left the area.

More than 150 people took part in an online event to protest against the charges.

Inside the court, the defendants - Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21 - all elected to have their case heard at a crown court.

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

Charges allege that the four defendants, together with "others unknown", damaged the statue and plinth of a value unknown without lawful excuse.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge against each of them and elected for the case to be sent to Bristol Crown Court rather than remain at the magistrates court.

Following the court hearing, Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, which represents three of the four defendants, issued a statement.

Raj Chada, head of criminal defence at the firm, and Laura O'Brien, associate, said: "We will fight these criminal charges vigorously on behalf of our clients.

"We are committed to defending them and their right to a fair trial in this important case."