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Trial date set for four accused of damaging Colston statue

December 13 will be the trial date of four people charged with criminal damage in relation to a bronze memorial to a 17th century slave merchant.

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The Edward Colston statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour after being toppled (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Edward Colston statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour after being toppled (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Edward Colston statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour after being toppled (Ben Birchall/PA)

A trial date has been set for four people charged with criminal damage in relation to the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21, appeared before Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave merchant was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7 last year, before being dumped in Bristol Harbour and later recovered by Bristol City Council.

Charges allege that the four defendants, without lawful excuse, jointly and with others, damaged the statue of Edward Colston, a listed monument belonging to Bristol City Council.

It is claimed that the defendants committed the offence “intending to destroy or damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged”.

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From left, Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse arrive at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

From left, Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse arrive at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

PA

From left, Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse arrive at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

All four defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge against them during the hearing at Bristol Crown Court.

Judge Peter Blair QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said he would preside over a trial of the case.

He told the defendants: “You have pleaded not guilty and therefore I am fixing a trial date of December 13 for you which you must attend without fail on that day and the subsequent days.

“We estimate that it will go into a second week. I am suggesting probably setting aside seven to eight days so you need to make sure that your diaries are so arranged.

“There will be a hearing on November 8 to take stock of the case and make sure that everyone is working successfully towards your trial date.

“You don’t have to attend but you may attend if you wish. Your counsel may attend by video link.

“You are on unconditional bail and that will continue, so you are free to leave.”

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Sage Willoughby arrives at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

Sage Willoughby arrives at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

PA

Sage Willoughby arrives at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

Ms Graham is of Colston Road, Bristol; Mr Ponsford is of Bishopstoke, Hampshire; Mr Skuse is of Farley Close, Bristol, and Mr Willoughby is of Gloucester Road, Bristol.

Ahead of the hearing, the legal firm representing three of the four defendants released a statement.

Raj Chada, head of criminal defence, and Laura O’Brien, associate, at London-based law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said they would fight the charges “vigorously”.

“We are committed to defending them and their right to a fair trial in this important case. We ask that their privacy is respected,” they said.

The next hearing in the case will take place on November 8 at Bristol Crown Court.

PA


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