That attorney general is considering referring the case in which four men were cleared for tearing down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston to a court of appeal.
Suella Braverman said the decision is causing “confusion” and she is “considering carefully” whether to use the powers that allow her review to allow senior judges to “clarify the law for future cases”. get a chance to do it.
Ryan Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, are on trial for pulling down a statue during a Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June 2020 in Bristol, while a large crowd is present Was.
He was acquitted by a jury at the city’s Crown Court on Wednesday.
Without affecting the outcome of this case, as Attorney General I may refer cases to the Court of Appeal to give senior judges an opportunity to clarify the law for future cases.
The verdict prompted a debate about the criminal justice system after defendants – dubbed the Colston Four – opted to prosecute before a jury and did not deny involvement in the incident, instead claiming the statue’s presence as an abomination. was an offense and it was therefore not a crime to remove it.
But prosecutors said it was “irrelevant” to who Colston was and that the case was outright criminal damage.
The acquittal cannot be reversed and the defendants cannot be tried again without new evidence.
Ms Braverman said on Twitter: “Trial by jury is an important custodian of liberty and should not be underestimated. However, the decision in the Colston statue case is causing confusion.
“Without affecting the outcome of this case, as Attorney General I may refer cases to the Court of Appeal to give senior judges an opportunity to clarify the law for future cases. I am considering it carefully.” whether to do so or not.”
Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 allows the Attorney General, after a submission to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to ask a High Court to clarify a point of law, but that does not affect the outcome of an individual case. There is no means to change. ,
A spokesman for the CPS said: “The decision to make the allegation was made after detailed consideration of the evidence in accordance with our legal examination.
“We are considering the outcome of the case, but under the law the prosecution cannot appeal the jury’s acquittal.”
During the hearing, Judge Peter Blair QC told jurors that they should decide the case based on the evidence they heard, after expressing concerns in their absence that they would be undue pressure by excessive rhetoric from defense barristers. Had been.
He also warned several supporters of the defendants about their behavior in court.
A petition calling for reconsideration, which claims that the “dangerous precedent that threatens all of our national heritage”, has attracted more than 13,000 signatures so far.
Some Tory lawmakers echoed the concerns, but others, and many lawyers, rejected the claim that the decision set a legal precedent that could lead to the defacement of other public monuments.
Following the verdict, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s people “should not have turned around to seek retrospectively to change our history” but said: “I do not wish to comment on that particular decision – it is a court matter.” Is.”
Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland defended the jury system, despite describing the verdict in the Colston case as “perverted”.
North West’s former Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal said the jury’s decision did not set a precedent, adding on Twitter in response to the petition: “You cannot appeal or re-sue. I can think of 100 evidence-based jury decisions that I didn’t agree with – but the jury system is best for us, I think, with government ministers (current and former) and the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution) Is required. Speak to educate the citizen instead of feeding ignorance or allowing misinformation to flourish.”
Matthew Scott, barrister and legal blogger at Pump Court Chambers, said: “Prosecutors cannot challenge the decision. The Attorney General may ask the Court of Appeal to consider any point of law, but any decision may affect the acquittal. Won’t do.”
In another tweet, human rights barrister Adam Wagner said: “There is a fundamental issue that will become clear to ministers – the jury’s decision sets no precedent, so the law remains as it was, but the Court of Appeal’s decision is an important one.” Will set the precedent, which may not be what the government wants.”