Edward Colston statue toppling: Four charged with criminal damage plead not guilty

The Colston statue was toppled and thrown into the harbour during a BLM protest in Bristol in June.

Four people charged with criminal damage of slave trader Edward Colston's statue have pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried at crown court.

The statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June last year and was then thrown into the harbour.

It was later recovered from the water by Bristol City Council.

Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21 have all been charged with criminal damage and they appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on the morning of Monday 25 January.

Rhian Graham, 29, arrives at Bristol Magistrates' Court Credit: PA
Milo Ponsford, 25, arrives at Bristol Magistrates' Court Credit: PA

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

Charges allege that the four defendants "with each other and others unknown without lawful excuse" damaged property, namely the Edward Colston statue and plinth of a value unknown, belonging to the council.

Jake Skuse, 36, arrives at Bristol Magistrates' Court Credit: PA
Sage Willoughby, 21, arrives at Bristol Magistrates' Court. Credit: PA

They all pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried by judge and jury, turning down the proposal to have a summary trial in the magistrates' court.

The case has been adjourned to February 8, when it will be heard at Bristol Court Crown.

A demonstration by supporters of the defendants - who have been dubbed 'The Colston 4' - had been planned outside Bristol Magistrates Court, but police issued a warning last night that such a protest would not be permitted due to lockdown restrictions, which only allow people to leave the house for essential business, shopping or exercise.

Organisers instead held the protest online, with a series of virtual events taking place throughout today.