Edward Colston statue: Reaction from Colston 4 after not guilty verdict

  • Rhian Graham speaks to ITV's Good Morning Britain

A ‘Colston 4’ defendant cleared of criminal damage after the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol has spoken about the case.

Rhian Graham told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she did not think her or her co-defendants’ actions were “criminal”.

She was one of four people charged with criminal damage after the statue was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city in June 2020.

They were cleared by a jury yesterday (January 5) following an 11-day trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Rhian Graham (30), Milo Ponsford (26), Sage Willoughby (22) and Jake Skuse (33) were all charged with criminal damage.

“I personally have never felt like a criminal in this, but you have to keep grounded and it could have gone either way,” she said.

“I’m just thankful for the result that we had.

“We’re not just talking about one petition [to remove the statue]. There’s been petitions over many years.

“There’s around 30 years of quite active objection to that statue but the protest actually goes back to the 1920s and I really don’t think without us pulling it down, that statue would have ever come down.”

Ms Graham suggested the statue's value has increased following its toppling.

'Can you really say we damaged it?'

Ms Graham also revealed her legal team had had the statue valued by an independent expert, who estimated it was now worth up to £300,000 - a significant rise on its £6,000 estimate pre-toppling.

“It says on the statue that it is owned by the citizens of Bristol, therefore we had some sort of claim over the fate of that statue,” she continued.

“The value of the statue has now increased and therefore can you really say that we damaged it?”

Also speaking this morning, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed new powers drafted into the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will close a “potential loophole” limiting the prosecution of people who damage memorials.

He said Britain is not a country where “destroying public property can ever be acceptable”.

Watch: Bristol historian David Olusoga speaks to GMB

Bristol-based historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, who gave evidence during the trial, described the verdict as a “milestone” in Britain coming to terms with its history.

"For 300 years Edward Colston was remembered as a philanthropist, his role in the slave trade and his many thousands of victims were airbrushed out of the story,” he said.

"The toppling of the statue and the passionate defence made in court by the Colston Four makes that deliberate policy of historical myopia now an impossibility."