Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Most Virtuous And Wise

The acquittal of the Colston Four is quite remarkable. Among other things, the jury accepted that the toppling of Edward Colston's statue was a prevention of crime since the statue itself was a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, and since that statue was an indecent display under Section 1 of the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981.

Counsel compared it to a statue of Adolf Hitler, and the jury agreed. The jury, that is, of 12 randomly assembled members of the public in Bristol. This case was heard at Bristol Crown Court. Colston is not some civic symbol or mascot, says the citizenry. On the contrary, his image is criminally alarming, distressing and indecent, as if it were an image of Hitler. If anything, there is a civic duty to remove it.

And that is why, whatever one may think of, say, Winston Churchill, no jury is ever going to acquit anyone on the same grounds if they were to have removed a statue of him. By the way, that would be a wildly impractical proposition where the famous one in Parliament Square was concerned. It is 12 feet tall, made out of solid bronze, and located in one of the most heavily policed areas in the world.

Churchill has always had his critics, and deservedly so. But if there were people who would suggest that his representation was criminally alarming, distressing and indecent, as if it were a representation of Hitler, then they would be most unlikely to convince at least 10 out of 12 randomly assembled members of the public.

And let there be no talk of judging the past by the standards of the present. Quite apart from whether that is necessarily wrong, the slave trade was always, always controversial in this country, with direct action against it at every stage in its history.


  1. 1985 and 1981, Thatcher legislation.

  2. Starmer supported this prosecution, the jury acquitted in three hours.

    1. The Four were lucky not to have been represented by him in court. Or by Blair, as perhaps no one ever has been.

      There are more than a million Africans at the bottom of the Atlantic, having been thrown overboard from the slave ships. Sending Colston's mere statue to join them is a very small matter by comparison.