The judge in the trial of the Colston statue feared that the lawyers might have put the jury under “wrong” pressure by urging it to be “on the right side of history.”
Judge Peter Blair QC said the jurors could feel “another burden on their shoulders” after hearing the lawyer’s statements about the global impact of their decision.
Jake Skuse, 33, Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, were all acquitted, although CCTV evidence proved their role in overthrowing the statue of Edward Colston during the Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June. 2020.
Liam Walker, a lawyer representing Mr Willoughby, said in his closing remarks:
Judge Peter Blair QC feared lawyers in the trial of the Colston statue could put the jury under “wrong” pressure when they called for it to be “on the right side of history”
“It simply came to our notice then. I challenge you all to be on the right side of history. ”
Mr Walker, a leading lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers, apologized for his remarks after Judge Blair expressed concern.
The judge told the jury to “focus on the decision” on the defendants’ statements about what had happened, and not on the alleged wider impact of the removal of the statue.
Robert Poll of the Save Our Statues campaign said: “The judge’s comments clearly indicate that undue pressure was put on the jury to deliver the” right “verdict, otherwise it faced the consequences.
“The fact that he told them not to feel pressured doesn’t change the fact that it happened or means that they didn’t.”
Meanwhile, MEPs said last night that the decision to allow a historian who “desperately” wanted to join the protest against Colston’s statue to provide expert evidence for the trial was “absurd.”
Sage Willoughby, 22, Jake Skuse, 33, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Rhian Graham, 30, (pictured left) were all acquitted, although CCTV evidence proved their role in overthrowing the statue of Edward Colston during the Black Lives Matter. protest in Bristol in June 2020.
Critics argued that letting Professor David Olusog speak before a Colston Four jury turned the criminal process into a political one.
They questioned whether jurors had been unfairly influenced by their involvement in the case of prominent activists, including Bristol-born artist Banksy and professional protest lawyer and Labor politician Raj Chada.
During the two-week trial, the plaintiffs argued that BLM supporter Professor Olusoga should not have been allowed to testify on behalf of the defendants because of his well-known stance on the statue’s vandalism.
The academic, who produced several slavery documents for the BBC, also publicly accused Winston Churchill of the equivalent of modern “war crimes.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone said last night: “That decision seems absurd. But I think the defense can summon any expert he wants. It is up to the prosecutor to point out possible problems. “
In an interview shortly after the statue was defeated, Professor Olusoga expressed his grief that he had not taken part in the demonstration.
In an interview with the Radio Times, the 51-year-old academic admitted that he “desperately” wanted to join the protesters, adding: “I strongly fought the urge to jump on the bike and drive down there – my home is only ten minutes away. ‘
He said he did not participate because he promised his family that he would be “careful” during the Covid pandemic.
Political commentator Calvin Robinson criticized the judge for allowing an “biased” academic to give expert testimony.
He said: ‘David Olusoga was clearly biased, but more importantly, he is not an expert on property destruction, he is a historian. This court case had nothing to do with history. It was about destroying public property. “
Mr Robinson added: “It is clear that it was Colston in court, not the Black Lives Matter criminals. The whole process involved Colston – it wasn’t entirely relevant and the result now looks political. “
During the trial, Attorney William Hughes QC unsuccessfully argued that Professor Olusoga’s historical evidence was irrelevant.
He said after the verdict: “In our opinion, Olusog’s testimony did not add anything.
“It was more of a shine I can imagine would upset anyone on the jury.”
Professor Olusoga welcomed the verdict and added, “All I did was tell the facts.”
Doughty Street Chambers did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.