Colston toppling: Four people plead 'not guilty' to criminal damage charges at Bristol Crown Court

Left to right: Sage Willoughby, Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse arriving at Bristol Crown Court. Credit: PA images

Four people have pleaded not guilty at Bristol Crown Court to causing criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston.

The bronze memorial to the 17th-century slave merchant was pulled down before being dumped into Bristol Harbour. It was later recovered from the water by the city council.

Appearing on the morning of Tuesday 2 March, Rhian Graham, 29, Jake Skuse, 36, Sage Willoughby, 21, and Milo Ponsford, 25, were accused of damaging the monument during a Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June last year.

A date for their trial has been set for 13 December and it is expected to last between five and seven days.

The judge presiding over the case took the unusual step of warning members of the media, many of whom joined online - some from overseas - that any video recording of procedures was prohibited.

There was a heavy police presence outside court after the first appearance of the 'Colston Four' at Bristol Magistrates Court in January saw a handful of people detained or spoken to by Avon and Somerset Police officers after a protest.

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