There may be no vindication for the British protesters who destroyed the image of the slave trader

Protesters throw a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol Harbor during a Black Lives Matter protest march in June 2020.Statue of Ben Birchall / AP

Under the British legal system, a jury verdict is usually untouchable. However, in exceptional cases, the public prosecutor can ask him to check whether legal procedures have been properly followed. This is exactly what Suella Braverman, the attorney general who is part of the Conservative government, is thinking. The question then would be whether the judge directed and informed the jury in the correct manner.

The process seemed straightforward. The four did not deny that they damaged the image of the slave trader in the seventeenth century. You can even see that in the pictures. So they were surprised that 11 of the 12 jurors on Tuesday concluded that no crime had been committed. Unlike Americans, British jurors are not allowed to speak about the proceedings to anyone after the trial, especially not to the media.


The jury may have been dropped due to a defense petition. In his argument, the lawyer had advised laymen in court to be on the “correct side of history.” However, the central question of the process was not whether the procedure was correct, but whether it was legal. The judge may not have sufficiently informed the jury that it is not the history of slavery that merits sentencing, but the vandalism of public property.

The conviction of the four was expected in Bristol Court, after which Judge Peter Blair, given the background, could not impose a sentence. There has been much discussion about the ruling in recent days. Thus fears of a precedent were expressed. Former Attorney General Robert Buckland called the ruling “perverted”.

A major campaign was organized to fund the defendants’ attorneys’ fees, including concerts and the sale of a custom-made T-shirt for the Bristol-Banksy-based artist. The four described the latest ruling as a “blessing for Bristol”. When there is a review and the higher judges find that the process has not been followed properly, there may be a new trial with a new jury.

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