by Adam King
Thursday, 6
January 2022
Analysis
13:16

In defence of the Colston Four verdict

A jury’s power to acquit without giving reasons is a bulwark against tyranny
by Adam King
The Colston Four

Young people of good character accused of nothing too dreadful are famously hard to convict. Juries like to throw them a bone — and why not? This is usually the case even when — as with the Colston Four — the defendants admit having done what the Crown alleges: questions of intention, reasonable excuse, and so on, often remain.

What the defence lawyers did well here — in the sense of both skill and good fortune — was persuading the judge to direct the jury that it was open to them to acquit if they thought that Colston’s statue was so indecent or abusive that Bristol City Council’s leaving it in place was itself a crime, and that in order to prevent that crime it was reasonable to topple him.

That was certainly a bit of a reach, and many judges would not have countenanced it. But it isn’t quite as silly as it might at first look. If I were to put up a cardboard statue of Hitler outside a synagogue, I could expect to be arrested under s.5 Public Order Act. If you kick it over and damage it, surely the jury ought at least to be able to consider whether the Prevention of Crime defence is made out? And just because Colston had been there a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that against a background of rapidly changing public attitudes the statue was not criminal.

And once the question of the statue’s offensiveness is before the jury, it is no great forensic leap to allow academic expert evidence to be given on the issue. So the jury sat quietly together and listened, no doubt intently, to the horrifying details of Colston’s slave trading (19,000 people, including many children, died on his ships), the strange circumstances in which his statue was erected 170 years after his death, and the more recent farcical wrangling over the wording of a ‘corrective’ plaque — all delivered by the calm, affable, and persuasive British-Nigerian Professor David Olusoga.

Perhaps not every juror was moved by defence counsel’s exhortations to be “on the right side of history” or the line, “if you have a cancer like Colston festering in your city, you cut it out” — it was a majority verdict after all — but in the unique circumstances of this particular statue it is little wonder that there was considerable appetite for acquittal among this randomly selected collection of Bristolians.

Was it a “perverse” verdict? Certainly not in the classic sense, where a jury is directed that there is no defence in law. Who knows what each of them decided about the claim that the statue was itself a crime. Perhaps they didn’t decide: perhaps they just discussed the facts, read the judge’s directions, and voted. Jury trials, even short ones, often develop a very particular mood and culture, based on the tone of the live evidence and the personalities of the judge and counsel, which is hard to predict and impossible to piece together after the event.

Was the verdict an assault on the Rule of Law? Absolutely not. In the wake of this verdict there have been threats to topple other statues, but this trial provides no licence or precedent, factually or in law.

But nor is the decision immune from criticism by some mystical moral sanctity that attaches to a jury’s verdict. Many of those adopting that stance would have made very different noises about Ched Evans’ 2016 acquittal for rape.

The system isn’t perfectly fair — apart from anything else it is entirely a matter of luck which twelve jurors you get — but a jury’s power to acquit without giving reasons is a precious bulwark against tyranny, and should be celebrated whether or not we agree with the latest verdict in the news.

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George Glashan
George Glashan
10 months ago

I had no idea Professor David Olusoga could be ” calm, affable, and persuasive ” he’s always struck me as an objectionable, ranting, racist grievance monger in his Guardian columns.

Last edited 10 months ago by George Glashan
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

“Definition of vigilante
: a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate) “

Next expect these empowered Neo-Marxists to begin wearing hoods and going out at night to waylay and beat people who espouse ideas they oppose. These are merely Fas* ist Brown Shirts, given license to police society retributively. To right perceived injustice by destroying that which they find offensive.

That that are shallow, ignorant of the real world, stupid and callow youths inculcated with woke, Post-modernist, Neo-Marxist, hate filled ideology makes this decision frightening indeed.

Andrew Mildinhall
Andrew Mildinhall
10 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I’ m afraid I agree with you. His handling of historical sources is questionable. I used to quite admire his work until I read his accusations about the security services going soft on white racists groups. Total and dangerous nonsense. Listen to him with caution.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Agreed 100%.

George Glashan
George Glashan
10 months ago

An interesting take on this verdict, makes lots of sense I’m not sold on it though, your just trading the tyranny of the mob for the tyranny of the state or the tyranny of the new woke clerics. Transparently what took place was vandalism, that a jury choose not to see what is in front of their eyes isn’t a ringing endorsement of justice.
That the court and jury choose not to punish vandals because they are middle class is just the establishment looking out for its own inheritors.
so when is vandalism not vandalism, when its conducted by the Milo’s, Sage’s and Tarquin’s of this world, then its merely reverse construction of a blasphemous idol.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
10 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I agree with you – vandalism is vandalisn and is a criminal offence. There are statues to people that I fundamentally disagree with, should I be given carte blanche to tear them down? Is a fervent republican allowed to destroy evey statue to a king or queen? If one wishes the removal of a particular statue then raise a petition and present it to the relevant authority, but if one chooses the way of this four then the law should be applied as it would be in other cases. Maybe there should be a way of expressing one’s disapproval of a particular memorialisation, short of its destruction, which would allow protests – any suggestions?

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago

I strongly agree with the concept of “jury nullification.”
I strongly disagree with this verdict and the tone of the article.
The jury was bamboozled and did not perform a public service, likely because they were afraid of hate mongers like the esteemed Prof. Olusoga. To call this vile, divisive, disgusting, filthy figure “calm, affable and persuasive” undermines the article, and to an extent, even the concept of jury nullification.
What is with all the white guilt about the slave trade? I would direct UnHerd readers a provocative article in The New Yorker called “My Great-grandfather the Nigerian Slave Trader.”
I accept absolutely no guilt for something that happened long before I was alive. Where is the condemnation of 20 year old Germans and Austrians for what Hitler did?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The writer is 100% captured by Postmodernist agenda. The article is complete craziness, and belongs in the Cultural Revolution camp of Fas*ism.

If you remember the Cultural Revolution, with millions of deaths was to attack the 4 Olds – and allowed any group of youth to come to summary decisions and beat and kill any old people who were ideologically wrong.

“Four Olds
The Four Olds or the Four Old Things was a term used during the Cultural Revolution by the student-led Red Guards in the People’s Republic of China in reference to the pre-communist elements of Chinese culture they attempted to destroy. The Four Olds were: Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs. The campaign to destroy the Four Olds began in Beijing on August 19, 1966, shortly after the launch of the Cultural Revolution.”

These 4 young Neo-Marxists are merely Red Guards out to protect our purity of essence. Good for them.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

James, Iread that article and wanted to “throw” it at one of my neighbours then I mislaid it. Thanks for the re-direction of my search.

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Glad I was able to help. That should be widely read, perhaps as an antidote to white guilt, which, by the way, I’m immune from. Apparently I have natural immunity–as Al Murray says on a slightly different topic “I was never confused….”

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I agree totally about the absurdity and even immorality of the idea of inherited guilt. However it is a reasonable point to ask why a slave trader’s statue was erected 170 years after his death ( well after the slave trade had been abolished). The same point arises even more starkly regarding the statues of Confederate generals erected in some Southern states decades after the end of the American Civil War.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

And could not a sign reading “Slave Trader” have been hung around the slave trader’s statue’s neck? What with bird droppings and lack of maintenance, the statue, and any other likewise, would have become a symbol of the past that, although not forgotten, is not unworthy of study either, and, also, of the societal hope for (some kind of) redemption: that in a Christian society good works cannot be airbrushed away as they are routinely in totalitarian societies stamping their verdicts on individuals, cancelling them for ever.
The problem (I speculate as I lack reading on the subject) at the time of the erection of Colston’s statue was that the man’s misdeeds, sins, crimes, unchristian or uncharitable acts, were airbrushed out of the positive picture that had been formed of him, presumably. Perhaps at the time some people might have tried to pass him off as “a good man.” For a period of 170 years to pass suggests some kind of retrospective rehabilitation in order to claim that “good man” mantle. I don’t think, therefore, that the people back then, in late 19th century England, were unaware of the horrors of the by-then abolished slave trade. If they had faults, it was more that they were as prepared to gloss over bad deeds as the young today are prepared to gloss over good deeds.
Of course, some today might argue that Colston effectively robbed the poor to give to the rich, by his participating in the slave trade; that society has been built on a lie; that no good came out of his enterprise. But would it be true to say that the man had no heart at all? That he had had no regrets? Surely that is why it is important to study history well before passing a final and absolute judgement. One would hope that the powerful symbolism of toppling a statue does not
lead to a wider and sudden flattening of society and the denigration of the good in people. As the good philosopher said, much easier to tear things down than build them up again.

Andrew D
Andrew D
10 months ago

‘And just because Colston had been there a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that against a background of rapidly changing public attitudes the statue was not criminal.’
Neither here nor in the rest of the coverage is there any mention of the fact that the statue was listed grade II. Unauthorised alterations to (or destruction) of a listed structure constitute a criminal offence, carrying a possible unlimited fine and two years in prison. While it was perfectly open to the jury (perhaps directed by the judge) not to seek to punish the perpetrators, it remains unarguable that the statue’s de-plinthing and dunking in the river was unauthorised. They should have applied for listed building consent.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Just Wait, this is just the opening salvo of the Postmodernist plan to destroy the West. First was to destroy the family, which they succeeded by making single motherhood a way to disenfranchise fathers, and keep mothers and their children low income and sub optimal mental fitness. (the welfare Trap – a vicious tool masking as being a social good).

Then they destroyed education as the inability to think makes all mere pawns. Destroying history (as Stalin, Mao, and Orwell did/said was the vital process of destroying a people’s cohesiveness) is next – re-writing it through the lens of modern wokeness.

The crisis of the Plandemic gave the ability of government, education, Corporations, and unions to force totalitarianism on the people in complete violation of every Right and freedom – and the public just asked for more. The Plandemic also handed the government purse to the Corporations and radical Politicos and Banksters.

BUT, these are just the beginning of the West becoming enslaved – Next is AGW. Global Warming is soon to eclipse all these things. The national purse is to be directed against the natural economy – money to be squandered to produce unrealistic energy wile realistic energy production is to be outlawed or made to subsidize the unrealistic. Then Carbon Credits to be used to completely manipulate all economies. Laws curtailing citizens behavior fallow. Freedom totally curtailed ; To Protect The Planet.

Then these vigilantes will be given total freedom to destroy and terrorize, ‘For the common Good’. An Iron Curtain is soon to descend across the West, one which will give huge economic success to all the rest of the world (China, India, Asia, Africa) who will utterly ignore such insanity, and burn coal and oil even more – wile the West becomes poor and cruel – like USSR, or Venezuela its end days….Thugs, poverty, fear – and these guys will be the brutal enforcers of it all – Just wait till Global Warming reign of terror begins….. You empowered vigilantes, now reap the terror they always bring.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Opening salvo? Where’ve you been til now?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

That is one hypothesis.
But I take issue with the term ‘postmodernist’. I am guilty of swinging the postmodernist cudgel at times, until I came across perhaps, to me, is one of the best discussions of postmodernism on Youtube, from people who have read the key texts in depth.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sUkmBX8jUE&t=504s
Two of the speakers – James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, wrote the book ‘Cynical Theories’ in which they distil out an ideological viewpoint they called ‘applied post modernism’ – a perversion of post modernism. I don’t know whether you have come across this term? Essentially neo marxist critical theorists(speculators really) took hold of post modern ideas and methods and twisted them to their own ends.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

I wonder what the verdict would have been if they had torn down a George Floyd statue.

George Glashan
George Glashan
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Last edited 10 months ago by George Glashan
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

6 months for just graffiting it. Banski would have worked with the prosecution as expert witness on how wicked a political tool grafitti is, when used for the wrong reasons.,…..

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Your comment reminds me of my Catholic priest telling us how he tried to explain concept of sin to some African natives.
Eventually, one of them said he understood.
“If Kali steals the cow it is not sin, but if someone steals Kali’s cow it is sin”
Unfortunately, that is the logic English juries apply to legal cases like Colston.

andrew harman
andrew harman
10 months ago

Oh dear, the old Reductio ad Hitlerum. Essentially middle class brats engaged in some virtue signalling and indulged in some “white privilege / white guilt bilge.
Silly article.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Not silly – is is purely a ‘Thought Crime’ case. The Judge has ruled some thought is illegal, as is history when it violates correct thought.

And So Wrong history is illegal, and thus it is legal for any citizen to make a citizens arrest when wrong history is on display, and to destroy it.

Nothing more just and fair than that. And also, history is what you ‘Feel’ it is. If one feels oppressed by an historical issue, well then it is wrong history, and therefore one is entitled to repress it, to whatever means you wish.

Common Law has now established this as the Law of the Land.

Andrew Mildinhall
Andrew Mildinhall
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

‘History is what you feel it is’. Really. Reminds me of Soviet Russia and other similar regimes. Of course ‘history’ is a matter of interpretation and reflects the values of the time it is written and revision is part of that process. But it’s not a matter of what you ‘feel’. That’s the same as argueing that ‘truth’ is whatever you believe it to be. Such an approach returns us to a pre Reformation/Enlightenme t world where ‘history and truth’ are concepts based not on empiricism but the prejudices and agendas of self interested groups.

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago

The way I read Galeti comment is not that he agrees with this way of thinking.
Rather he points out that article is not silly but it promotes views which Orwell argued against.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew F
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
10 months ago

So, what does this verdict establish? That if you have a good woke cause and live in a heavily woke area your vandalism has a good chance of being nodded through. No one else would be well advised to try. That allowing the claim that leaving a statue in place can constitute a crime and justify a counter-crime to remove it is monumentally silly on behalf of the judge. It is good that the jury should be free to decide as it will, but one would hope that the government would change the law so that next time the judge will be forced to direct that there is no defence in law. Otherwise we must hope for some brave, right-wing statue-topplers to force the issue.

George Glashan
George Glashan
10 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-56565683
I’ll bring the chisels if you can bring the ropes. I think Saint Greta’s idol would look lovely at the bottom of the River Itchen.

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
10 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well, Rasmus.
Heartened by this apparently non-peverse and non absurd judgement of 11 of the 12 jurors, the encouragement of the Judge, the glee of the Grauniad / BBC nexus and this piece of bufoonery from Adam King, I’m off the Highgate Cemetry with my trusty sledgehammer.
If, the views of a pack of Antifa thugs, ‘enlightened’ by the apparent moral standards of 2021; are adequate to justify destroying a listed monument of a C.17th philanthropist who participated when young in an evil slave trade, then an ‘indecent’ and ‘abusive’ effigy of Karl Marx must be long overdue for destruction. No?
After all, the sickening deaths of those rounded up by African Chief slave sellers, sold to Europeans and sent across the Atlantic into slavery are just a bagatelle compared to the evil spawn of Marx’s writings, which continue to this very day. I’m sure Cressida d**k and her cohorts would be most happy to ensure I was ‘comfortable’ in my little protest.
Meanwhile, ‘back at the fort’, no-one (and certainly not the four moronic thugs now acquitted) apparently gives a shit about ongoing slavery around the world, or about the systematic grooming and rape of British school girls.

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

I only looked at this thread now and, as you say, all these lefties have no problem with mass murderers like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao.
Forget “ancient” and commie history, anyway.
Remember how Pinochet was locked up for months in uk facing extradition charges but thugs like Mugabe were freely travelling round Europe?
Should i be allowed to stab someone for wearing tee-shirt with Lenin, Mao or Che Guevara image?
It clearly upset me, since I was born under communism.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
10 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

A judge can direct what he or she likes but that does not force the jury to do so

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

I thought it could actually – if the breach of law is clear can’t judges take the decision making away from the jury if they wish? I thought this happened from time to time.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
10 months ago

I agree that jury verdicts – brought in without the need for reasons – can be a bulwark against tyranny.

Doubtless juries have brought in Not Guilty verdicts where the law itself seemed harsh (e.g. hanging for low-value theft); or the behaviour of the prosecuting authority seemed vindictive or disproportionate (especially if the hand of some powerful force was perceived behind the prosecution); or a defendant in miserable circumstances (perhaps a long-abused wife) simply deserved some human sympathy.

But, but, but … does any of the above apply here?

Is it tyranny to have laws to protect property, public or private? Is it oppression to discourage riotous and destructive behaviour? What suffering on the part of the defendants can seriously be argued?

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Excellent comment. It’s as if there’s some kind of collective confusion going on and somehow or other Colston was on trial rather than the defendants.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago

I’d wager the author would have a different view if a statue of Nelson Mandela had been torn down by some skinheads who cited the ANCs bombing campaign as justification for their vandalism

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

Is it reasonable to compare Edward Colston with Adolf Hitler ? Surely not.
Colston was a merchant first and foremost, and a philanthropist in his latter years. Hitler was an insanely ambitious ideologue. They really are not comparable.
Anyway, I don’t believe this is truly about slavery and BLM, that’s just the superficial justification. It probably has more to do with youth v’s maturity, Left v’s Right, ignorance v’s knowledge.
If the CPS had genuinely wanted a conviction they should have tried these four hipsters somewhere other than their home town.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

Add on: Hitler compared to Colston +
Hitler deliberately set about wiping out an entire ‘race’ of people he did not like, as well as a few smaller groups. This was done brutally on an industrial scale.
Colston traded in African slaves, buying them from African slave traders, transporting them across the Atlantic to work so that profit could be made for Colston, his colleagues and investors.
Both men caused great suffering, but Hitler did it on purpose, Colston did it seemingly unaware out of a callous disregard for the humans involved, but that callous disregard was not at all uncommon at the time of his involvement in the slave trade, c.1680 – 1690, other areas such as mining and crime and punishment in Britain were incredibly brutal. When Sir Isaac Newton was Master of the Royal Mint c.1699 he ensured that coin clippers had their hands chopped off and counterfeiters were hung, drawn and quartered. It was almost unimaginably different back then.
I wonder if Colston’s philanthropy in later life was as a result of a better understanding and guilt or regret. I hope it was.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
D M
D M
10 months ago

I cannot agree with your argument. If a statue or other item in the public realm is to be removed, it should be removed by due process not by vigilantes.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
10 months ago

‘…all delivered by the calm, affable, and persuasive British-Nigerian Professor David Olusoga.’
Or you could equally describe him as ‘the woke, racial grievance-mongering, economical-with-the-facts British-Nigerian Professor David Olusoga.’
Here is Simon Webb’s view of him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srY_1kPCcLY&t=2s
(Sorry George Glashan, I swear I wrote my comment before belatedly spotting yours!)

Andrew F
Andrew F
10 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Yes, people like “dreadlocks David” are supposedly future of British Academia.
Good help us.
He was presenter of the dreadful remake of Clarke’s “civilisation” series called “civilisations”.
I guess focus just on Europe is unfair but claiming that building few mud huts, making few Benin bronzes and playing jazz (which I really like but it is not Mahler) constitute civilisation is stretching it.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
10 months ago

I’m sorry but this is just wrong. You think it correct because the jury brought in a verdict with which you agreed, but on principle it is simply wrong.
When it comes to laws, they must be written and applied without passion or prejudice.
The jury is there to decide if the defendants are guilty of the charges – not to apply personal value judgements to the charges.
It would be up to the Judge, at sentencing, to apply the value judgement.
The principle must remain intact, yet you are willing to cast it off because you support their verdict, thus you are throwing out the principle for partisan preference. That cannot be right, surely?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
10 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Much as I dislike this verdict, I am not sure you are right about juries. Surely they are there to make sure that the law and judgements remain consisent with a popular sense of justice. One reason (like it or loathe it) that abortion became legal in Denmark is that it was becoming impossible to get a jury to convict in abortion cases.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So, as in the old days, a jury of religious minded people could convict witches?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The writer is merely a Neo-Marxist, he will never agree with any verdict which is just, and will always side with any unjustly tolerating social degeneracy. He needs to write for the Guardian and BBC

William Cameron
William Cameron
10 months ago

This is plain wrong . And it is wrong because we elect local Councillors to manage such matters within the law. By all means persuade your councillors to remove a statue . But taking it into your own hands is wrong.
As for David Olusoga he doesnt often mention the truth of slavery . That it wasn’t Europeans that captured slaves in West Africa . It was his own forebears who captured slaves and sold them to European slavers . Europeans did not need to go inland to capture slaves . They waited for them to be brought to them on the coast by his west african great great great etc grandparents. Who then accepted payment for their captives. Did he mention that Britain abolished slavery and sent the West Africa Squadron to stop it -not just British Slavery but all slavery . 1000 British Sailors lost their lives doing that – stopping slavery .

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
10 months ago

Elementary mistake, you are confusing abolishing the slave trade with abolishing the use of slave labour. The slave trade was abolished in 1807, slavery in the UK’s colonies not until 1834 and, effectively not for a long period after that as indentured service replaced it. Using the Navy to attempt to prevent other nations using slave labour while continuing to use it ourselves is not the philanthropic gesture it seems.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
10 months ago

Olusoga is a BBC lefty creature. As such an unreliable witness.

Peter LR
Peter LR
10 months ago

If those judge comments are accurate they are bizarre. It’s concerning that judges can make moralising judicial decisions on the hoof: such as saying that the views of Maya Forstater were not worthy of respect in a democratic society, then having to get his nonsense overturned on appeal (an expensive pastime).
Following the moral argument from this case it should now be perfectly legal to topple the statue of Bomber Harris whose leadership led to the incineration of thousands of German civilians and refugees during the Allied bombing campaign since that could now be considered a ‘crime’.

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Or perhaps that of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. His pernicious creed, followed by Stalin and many others since, has been responsible for the deaths of millions.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago

I’m assuming they will now move on to bigger and better things – perhaps a series of trips to Rome to vandalise the Colosseum and all those statues of Nero.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
10 months ago

I don’t object to juries refusing to convict even if the case is clearly made out – remember Clive Ponting back in the eighties. But I don’t think the Judge should have left the “prevention of crime” defence to the Jury – he wasn’t bound to if he had ruled (as he should) that no reasonable jury properly directed could find that Bristol Council was committing a crime by not removing the statue: that argument was ludicrous.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jonathan Nash
stephen archer
stephen archer
10 months ago

Based on society’s norms over the last 70+ years since WW2 these louts should have been sentenced to a term in prison. Innocence and naivety have nothing to do with it. The singling out of Colston is a drop in the ocean in terms of the UK’s heritage in terms of relationships to the slave trade. Manchester was built on the cotton trade, Glasgow on the tobacco trade, London prospered and grew thanks to the British Empire’s expansion in the new world and Far East where ethnic minorities were suppressed and in some cases eliminated. So where do you draw the line? Tear down Australia House, Buckingham Palace, fill in the Manchester Ship Canal, raze 19th century Glasgow to the ground? Get the Aussies to renounce their claim to the territories?
We have to stop listening to the uneducated and unbalanced loonies brought up by fat and happy parents in times of affluence, and in some way instill in them a balanced sense of values and acceptance of what’s gone before and not to be repeated, if necessary through punishment via the legal system. I know it’s not on but if they continue unhindered they’ll be just be forming their own future in a dystopian wildnerness where anything goes and everyone is offended by everyone else.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

I live in Montpelier, which is Ground Zero for Bristolian wokery and about 1.5 miles from where Tarquin and Henrietta did their iconoclastic thing. I am becoming increasingly uncompromising and explicit in my disdain for the posh woke fascist our souls infesting my neighbourhood.

Last edited 10 months ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 months ago

I can follow the reasoning (and have some admiration for those defence lawyers – that was some daring), but I still think giving the jury such an instruction was a bad plan. Here’s why:
Instructing the jury that they may acquit if they thought leaving the Colston statue in place was itself a crime does not equal or imply a general licence for people to commit vandalism. That is true. This case concerned the statue of a slave trader…and who in their right minds are going to advance an argument that that person and his trade were not abhorrent and a stain on British history? Certainly not I.
HOWEVER – what we will now see is a spate of copycat crimes by young people who don’t understand the nuance of the argument, or that juries being given such an instruction is probably going to be limited to very specific cases, like the Colston statue.
They will simply think: I am offended by this statue/monument/book/whatever, and I consider it a crime that it still exists, so I may damage/destroy it.
In the moment of that person’s action, the judgment has moved from a fairly clear-cut ex ante assessment (I am damaging public property which is illegal and shall therefore be punished) to an ex post assessment (it is only in retrospect that a jury decides whether the action was a crime or the prevention of a crime – so maybe I will be punished but maybe I won’t).
What the actor considers a crime (that would justify his/her actions) is entirely subjective, and this is where the danger lies. You have young people out there who think that JK Rowling is a TERF WHO SHOULD DIE and burn her books.
Now, clearly, an outspoken author who articulates entirely rational and legal points of view is on a whole other plane than a slave trader. But I will bet my bottom dollar that silly young minds up and down the country will lump them all together in one pot and think that, just because their feelings are hurt or they are offended, then that is reason enough to go on the rampage. And there will be a lot of sad faces and ruined futures when they don’t get acquitted, because what they have damaged/destroyed is not offensive enough (objectively seen).
A final comment: those young people in the photo aren’t warriors for racial and social justice. They’re a bunch of bored middle class twerps who got lucky. No one should look at them and see heroes.

Last edited 10 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

An interesting thing about the name Olusoga is that it is of Yoruba provenance. It means “God is the master” according to the online African dictionary. Assuming Professor Olusoga is indeed of Yoruba heritage, the question arises whether this prominent historian is aware of the history of the Yoruba people, in particular their role during the Oyo Imperium in the 18th century African slave trade. If so, has Professor Olusoga considered apologising to the descendants of the victims of his ancestors, and what plans does he have to offer reparations?

agsmith.uk
agsmith.uk
10 months ago

None of these arguments are relevant. It was criminal damage by definition and that is a criminal offence. There were democratic ways to achieve their aims and if a biased or stupid jury can’t see that then the law needs changing so that the jury has no choice but to convict. The prosecution should be allowed to call it a mistrial and prosecute anew.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
10 months ago

Yes, it was an assault on the Rule of Law and has instead set a precedent for the Rule of Values.

This means we are in big trouble because anyone can do anything if they’re sincere enough!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

I happen to know who vandalised this statue:-
https://www.channel103.com/news/jersey/statue-vandalised-again/
The person who did it was very pleased with herself, and was rather taken aback when I told her how disgusted I was. Shortly after she confessed, I rang Crimestoppers, and told them that although I wasn’t prepared to disclose the identity of the vandal, it might be of some comfort to the people of Jersey that she had been told what a stupid vagina she had been.
In light of the recent verdict in the Colston case, I am tempted to revisit my decision not to disclose the Jersey vandal’s identity to Crimestoppers.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Oh please do it!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

On consideration, I won’t. But she truly disgusts me, as I will tell her.

Last edited 10 months ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Yeah I too tend to stay out of it, but be honest, and let the pendulum of reaction/fate do it’s thing.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
10 months ago

My not agreeing with this jury’s verdict aside, if the Police had done their job and taken control of a public affray and sent them on their way this court case need never have occurred. I’ve done jury service and found the Police and prosecution severely wanting. In that case it wasn’t that the accused was guilty, which we suspected, but that the court had failed to provide sufficient proof, so he went free.

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes
10 months ago
Reply to  Zorro Tomorrow

It is not the court that ‘provides’ evidence.
As a jury you were free to decide there was not sufficient evidence and to acquit. However the Judge would not have allowed you to consider the case had s/he not believed that there was as a matter of law sufficient evidence for you to convict had you been inclined and persuaded to do so.
Almost every juror I have ever spoken to finds that the prosecutor was unconvincing but the defence barrister was excellent. This is invariably because prosecution counsel is constrained in how they may question the witnesses (for the prosecution) while defence counsel have considerably more latitude in cross-examination. This gives defence counsel far greater opportunity to impress juries with their oratory.
The key skill of a defence barrister is to persuade a jury that there is insufficient evidence or that it is unreliable.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
10 months ago

Expert evidence was nothing to the point and the judge should have excluded it.

Iris C
Iris C
10 months ago

I don’t agree. Judges are there to uphold the law, not to be biased in favour of one side rather than another. it was vandalism and should have been judged as such

William Shaw
William Shaw
10 months ago

There are lawful ways to correct what’s wrong.
Vandalism is never the right answer.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago

Au contraire, this case will encourage the easily offended to destroy various public buildings and statues associated with wealth derived from the empire (and therefore tenuously, slavery), which means virtually every public building in the country, on the basis that in doing so they are now on the ‘right side of history’.
The National Trust and English Heritage have very helpfully provided a big list of targets too.

Last edited 10 months ago by Ian Stewart
Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes
10 months ago

Three years ago I was summonsed for jury service. First mistake was to wear a suit and tie. Second mistake was to admit to having been a police officer when we were all specifically asked by an Usher. I explained that I had been retired for 10 years and that I had served in a police force that did not cover the Court area. When I queried why we were asked about being police officers but nothing else, the Usher told me that the Judges at that particular court didn’t like ex-police officers on juries. Needless to say I was the only prospective juror to spend two weeks sitting in the jury waiting room without once being called.
Unsurprisingly I lack the sentimental approach to Juries of the writer, which in my defence, is at least the result of considerable personal experience.
Jury’s may acquit contrary to the evidence and this is often cited as a good thing. They cannot however convict contrary to the evidence. The simple truth is that a jury trial is a nothing to lose coin toss for a defendant when the prosecution evidence is strong. What happened here is not at all uncommon.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hughes

Ah that’s a shame you missed out. I found it be a marvellous experience and hugely insightful about a wide cross section of U.K. society.
The most striking aspect was the jurors innate desire to not allocate guilt, and it became apparent to me that as a result the prosecution actually has the heavier burden.
People even resorted to daft conspiracy theories in order to justify the defendants actions or refute the evidence provided. It was fairly easy to deconstruct their logic and expose their bias (really bigotry).
I concluded that every jury needs a couple of intelligent/informed people of diverse political persuasions to ensure there is an objective discussion that can reach a fair verdict based on the evidence (not emotions or opinions).

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
10 months ago

He lost me after the Hitler reference, eye- rollingly overused and not comparable.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago

Yes, the jury had the right… is anyone seriously disputing that? But was that right well exercised?

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
10 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

A right is a right regardless of how it is exercised

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

Obviously.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

Juries aren’t randomly selected. Only the idle classes can commit to them these days and the rest of us are readily excused from duty. A small business owner, or even just manager, for example, will never be tried by a jury of his or her peers.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
10 months ago

Not true at all.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago
Reply to  Zorro Tomorrow

Very true in the UK. I was called up several times and was excused due to work commitments. Others told me the same.

Last edited 10 months ago by Brendan O'Leary
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
10 months ago

Richard! I presume you are unable to speak because you are still spitting feathers. Even if they can’t support you many here will still feel you pain.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Thank you Doug, much appreciated.

JP Martin
JP Martin
10 months ago

Submitting an abstract to UnHerd for an article titled ‘In defence of the OJ Simpson verdict’….

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
10 months ago

“A jury’s power to acquit without giving reasons is a bulwark against tyranny”, and a government’s power to go to appeal court is a bulwark against Judges who don’t give lawlike direction and set dangerous precedents.

mike.shipmaster
mike.shipmaster
10 months ago

The points are clearly missed and yet again anarchy gains in leaps and bounds. Ironically it also contradicts one of the basic precepts of Christianity in the definition of mortal sin. The catechism states that to commit a mortal sin one must know that it is a sin, be really aware that it is a sin, weigh the consequences and then proceed to commit the sin and then not to be sorry for the act. Simple. They knew that the law states that one cannot go ahead and pull down something because you object to it they did just that and are guilty. the court in this case said that they had noble motives and should discharged. Now this may well be true but that introduces a whole bag of worms. How we we know that they held those views? we do know for sure. Have they tried legal means of removing that to which they object? No – it is another action like Extinction Rebellion that employs total disregard for legal avenues that this country provides and stops the invaluable public service men and women doing their essential tasks – the first victims of anarchy as usual. Now if I sound pompous good but at least I have credentials in fighting slavery and winning. I have also visited Cape Coast in Ghana where Obama completely missed the point – slavery could never have happened without the full complicity of the African nations of that coast. The elephant in the room is to be found by looking at the fort there – the guns point seaward not landward. They did not want the trading post captured by others – there was no danger from the suppliers – the Africans. When Africans and Europeans bend both knees and both beg God for forgiveness, mea maxima culpa – then and only then will we defeat racism.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
10 months ago

I’m appalled at the verdict, but the jury decided to acquit them, as was its right, and that is surely the end of the matter. We must celebrate the fact that our history established this right long ago.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

It is a reflection of the jurors post the abolition of jury qualification, passim: imagine being an accused in the US, knowing that your 12 men good and true believed the Q Anon mantra, and the Satanic Paedo nonsense?

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
10 months ago

An intelligent article. The jury may well have considered that many in Bristol would have liked to see the back of the statue. The “herd” commenting on this disagree. Do the feel the same about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict?
The herd of right wing commentators should also remember that if these people had been sent to prison, they would have been martyrs, with glowing political careers to follow.
Being racist is one thing, but I never knew there were so many slavery apologists.

Last edited 10 months ago by Frank Freeman
Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank Freeman

Inside, the three boys would have had to take a shower eventually with other parts glowing as a result. The girl couldn’t tie a knot. Perhaps the jury were sympathetic?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank Freeman

When did the arabs from North Africa stop enslaving sailors and other people from Britain ? There used to be funds to buy back British slaves from arabs. The sack of Algiers to stop slavery was 1830 by Admiral Lord Exmouth.