Four charged with criminal damage over toppling of Edward Colston statue

Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in College Green, Bristol, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis. PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 7, 2020. See PA story POLICE Floyd. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
The statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7 (Picture: PA)

Four people have been charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

The controversial statue of the slave trader was ripped off its plinth and thrown into the harbour during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the city on June 7.

Six months after the protest, Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, have all been charged in connection with what happened.

They are due to make their first appearance at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on January 25.

Protestors tied rope around the bronze memorial to the 17th century merchant and pulled it down in scenes that were shown around the world.

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The statue was later recovered from the water by Bristol City Council and assessed to have suffered £3,750 worth of damage.

No arrests were made at the time but Avon and Somerset Police launched an investigation.

The CPS said on Wednesday that it had authorised charges following a review of a file of evidence from the force.

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis. PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday June 7, 2020. See PA story POLICE Floyd. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - 8400531
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour (Picture: PA)

A spokesman said: ‘The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against all four are now active and that they have the right to a fair trial.

‘It is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.’

Following the toppling of the statue, officers reviewed CCTV footage and other pictures and video to identify those believed to be involved.

One man was arrested, with seven men and one woman asked to attend a police station for a voluntary interview.

In September, the force said detectives would approach the CPS for a charging decision against four people – three men and a woman.

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn, which has been installed in Bristol on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 15, 2020. Protester Jen Reid climbed up on the pedestal and stood there, with her arm raised, after Colston's statue was torn down during Black Lives Matter protests in June. See PA story ARTS Colston. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
A statue of BLM protestor Jen Reid briefly filled the empty plinth in July (Picture: PA)

The five other people – men aged 18, 20, 29, 33 and 47 – were offered a conditional caution for the offence of causing criminal damage to property valued under £5,000.

Under the conditions of the caution, they had to complete a questionnaire from a history commission set up by Bristol City Council.

They had to pay a fine of £100, which would be sent to Bristol-based charity Nilaari, and take part in two hours of environmental improvement works arranged by Bristol City Council.

The June protest – which was held in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis – sparked a global conversation about statues and their colonial routes.

Several other statues with links to the slave trade were torn down and organisations conducted investigations into the origins of prominent memorials across the UK.

The plinth in Bristol has remained empty since Colston was removed, although it has been briefly occupied by art installations on several occasions since the summer.

Artist Marc Quinn installed a statue of BLM protestor Jen Reid holding her fist in the air in July but this was removed by Bristol City Council.

Most recently the figure of Darth Vader appeared on the empty space in a tribute to Bristol-born actor Dave Prowse who played the character in Star Wars and died last month.

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Bristol – Metro