Little Stoke man cleared of criminal damage to Edward Colston statue

Photo of a statue lying horizontally and daubed in red paint.
The toppled Colston statue lying horizontally at the M Shed museum, Bristol. Credit: Adrian Boliston; Source:; licence: CC BY 2.0, some rights reserved.

A 33-year-old man from Little Stoke has been cleared of causing criminal damage to a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston.

The bronze monument was toppled from its plinth and dumped into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020.

Jake Skuse, of Farley Close, was one of four defendants, collectively known as the Colston Four, who stood trial at Bristol Crown Court. His co-defendants were Rhian Graham, 30, from Bristol; Milo Ponsford, 26, from Bishopstoke, Hampshire; and Sage Willoughby, 22, from Bristol. All four pleaded not guilty to charges of damaging the statue and plinth “of a value unknown” without lawful excuse.

During the nine-day trial, Mr Skuse said he took part in rolling the toppled statue to the harbour to stage a symbolic “sentencing” of the slave trader.

After just under three hours’ deliberation, a jury of six men and six women found the four defendants not guilty by an 11 to one majority decision.

Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Care.

Reactions to the verdict

Commenting on the verdict, Raj Chada, head of criminal defence at solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen, who represented Mr Skuse, said:

“The truth is that the defendants should never have been prosecuted. It is shameful that Bristol City Council did not take down the statue of slaver Edward Colston that had caused such offence to people in Bristol and equally shameful that they then supported the prosecution of these defendants.”

In contrast, the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie tweeted that he could not help “questioning the sanity of the jury”, adding:

“The verdict was a shocking signal to every lefty protester in the country that they can damage with impunity as long as they chant the phrase hate crime.”


Chief superintendent Liz Hughes, head of neighbourhood policing for Avon and Somerset Police, said:

“This was an incident which attracted worldwide attention and which polarised public opinion.”

“Ultimately, we had a duty to investigate as the custodians of the statue – Bristol City Council – had not granted anyone permission to damage it.”

“Following a thorough investigation we submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service who then made the decision to charge the four defendants with criminal damage.”

“Having been presented with the evidence, a jury has now determined their actions were not criminal and we respect its decision.”

Mark Shelford, Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner, commented:

“I am supportive of Avon and Somerset Police for upholding the law and completing a thorough investigation against some of those involved in pulling down the Edward Colston statue.”

“While I support our Criminal Justice System, I know many people will feel unhappy with the outcome given the fact that damage was undeniably committed. However, due process has now taken place.”

“The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in British law and I will continue to support the role of the police in facilitating that right. I would, however, remind our communities never to take the law into their own hands; if they do, I would expect the police to respond robustly and proportionately and prosecute those involved.”

“We do not want to live in a lawless society and I actively encourage residents to follow democratic routes to make changes in their villages, towns and cities.”

Stoke Gifford and Little Stoke A-Z directory of trades and services.

Legal arguments

The tweet by BBC Radio Bristol outlines the legal arguments used by the defence:

Related links:

Painting Petals: Female painter & gardener.

 Case sent to Court of Appeal

UPDATE added 13th April 2022.

The acquittal of four people on trial for toppling Bristol’s Edward Colston statue has prompted the attorney general to contact the Court of Appeal, reports BBC News.

Suella Braverman is seeking clarification of the law around what can be used as a defence to criminal charges arising from protests.

The referral will not affect the acquittals in the case.

Full story: Edward Colston statue case sent to Court of Appeal

Share this page: