Edward Colston statue: Boris Johnson says we 'cannot seek to change our history'

Boris Johnson has said we cannot seek to "retrospectively change our history" following the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and the subsequent trial in Bristol.

Rhian Graham (30), Milo Ponsford (26), Sage Willoughby (22) and Jake Skuse (33) were all found not guilty of criminal damage for their role in the statue's removal at Bristol Crown Court yesterday (January 5).

The Prime Minister said he would not comment on the verdict as it is "a matter for the court" but said his "feeling is that we have a complex historical legacy all around us which reflects our history and all it's diversity for good or ill."

He continued: "What you can't do, is go around seeking retrospectively to change our history or to edit it.

"It's like some person trying to edit their Wikipedia entry - it's wrong."

The Colston Four celebrate after being acquitted at Bristol Crown Court Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

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 dumped in Bristol Harbour.

Rhian Graham, one of four people charged with criminal damage, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that she did not think her or her co-defendants’ actions were “criminal”.

She said: “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.”

During the trial, Bristol Crown Court heard Colston was involved in the enslavement and transportation of over 80,000 people, of which almost 10,000 were children. An estimated 19,000 died on ships bound for the Caribbean and the Americas.

The Prime Minister continued today: "If people democratically want to remove a statue, then that's fine but I think that in general we should preserve our cultural, artistic, historical legacy."