Edward Colston toppling trial: Almost £4k spent after statue pulled down, jury told

The statue is now on display in the M Shed Credit: PA

Almost £4,000 was spent on a new plinth for a statue of Edward Colston after it was pushed into Bristol Harbour, a jury has been told.

Four people are on trial accused of criminal damage in relation to a statue of the slave trader.

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Jake Skuse, 33, and Sage Willoughby, 22, all deny any wrongdoing and are on trial at Bristol Crown Court.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave merchant was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on June 7 last year, before being rolled down the centre and dumped in Bristol Harbour.

L-R: Jake Skuse, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford and Sage Willoughby Credit: PA

At Bristol Crown Court today (December 14), the jury heard evidence from Bristol City Council's head of culture and creative industries Jon Finch.

He told the jury the statue was a listed monument which was offered to the city in 1895 and placed in what is now St Augustines Parade.

While being questioned by prosecutor Williams Hughes QC, Mr Finch confirmed the council had maintained the statue.

He said no permission had been given for its removal on June 7 last year.

The statue was recovered days later and has since been placed in the M Shed museum in Bristol.

Photographs were shown to the jury of the damage caused to the statue, including a missing part of the figure's tailcoat and missing staff. Red paint had also been daubed over parts of the figure. 

"Because of the damage caused, we needed to create a supporting plinth to stabilise it," said Mr Finch, who confirmed a cost of £3,750.

He said the statue is likely to remain in the M Shed for the foreseeable future and said the council was not willing to spend additional money repairing damage to the statue's plinth, which remains in its original location.

Cross-examining Mr Finch, Tom Wainwright, defence counsel for Ponsford, asked if the toppling of the statue was a historic event.

"It was," agreed Mr Finch.

"A protest heard around the world," said Mr Wainwright.

"It was," Mr Finch replied.

The Colston statue's plinth remains empty Credit: PA.

When asked if the statue should have been removed earlier, Mr Pinch said: "I don't think I'm in a position to comment on that."

Earlier, Mr Wainwright said the statue was gifted to the people of Bristol, not to the council, who were only holding it on trust and maintaining it. 

He told the court there had been previous attempts to remove the statue and to install a second plaque memorialising those who died as a result of the slave trade.

He said the wording was disputed by The Society of Merchant Venturers and no plaque had been installed by June 2020.

"That statue caused great concern for many years, didn't it?" asked Mr Wainwright. "Many found it shocking, offensive and outrageous."

"I was aware there were concerns expressed by many people in the city," said Mr Finch. 

"Was any consideration given to the public display of a prominent slave trader might be indecent?" Mr Wainwright asked.

"Yes," said Mr Finch. 

The case continues.