The attorney general has drawn criticism saying she is considering whether to refer the case of four men to the Court of Appeals for vandalizing a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.
Suella Braverman said the decision is causing “confusion” and that she is “carefully considering” whether to exercise the powers that allow her to review it, so senior judges have “law for future cases”. to clarify”, despite stressing that “trial by jury is an important custodian of liberty and should not be underestimated”.
Some lawyers said the move smelled of “Trumpian politics” and called an apparent uproar over the acquittal a “complete waste of time” and a loss of trust in the justice system.
Opponents urged Ms Braverman to “not play the political game” when she did not like the results.
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.
Ryan Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were on trial for pulling down a statue during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020 in Bristol, while a large crowd was present .
He was acquitted by a jury at the city’s Crown Court on Wednesday.
The verdict prompted a debate about the criminal justice system when defendants, dubbed the Colston Four, opted to stand trial before a jury and did not deny their involvement in the incident.
Instead they claimed that the presence of the statue was a hate crime and therefore its removal was not a crime.
Prosecutors said it was “irrelevant” to who Colston was and that the case was outright criminal damages.
The acquittal cannot be reversed and the defendants cannot be tried again without new evidence.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for North West, told the PA news agency: “This is a complete waste of time and damages trust in the justice system.”
There are only two circumstances when “a jury’s decision of not guilty is not the end of the case”, he said – when a jury has been “tainted” through intimidation of gangsters, for example, or when a “new, compelling The evidence “be” was not available at the time of trial.
“This only applies to cases like murder and serious sex offences, not criminal damages,” he said.
Labor’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “The attorney general has a duty to uphold democracy, the rule of law and the sanctity of the jury system, not to play political games when he doesn’t like the outcome.”
Barrister Raj Chada, representing Mr. Skuse, told the PA: “This is a highly unusual move. I can’t think of any other instance where this has happened and I’m not sure what explanation the attorney general is seeking.”
“It really smells of Trumpian politics.
“A decision that some people in the Tory party do not like is being underestimated and misused, so that it spreads cynicism about the system.
“More to think about, but a few weeks ago, they were saying that juries were a fundamental part of our democracy.”
Last month Justice Secretary Dominic Raab laid out plans to reform human rights laws, including strengthening “quintessentially British traditions” like the right to jury trial.
Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 allows the Attorney General, after a submission to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to ask the High Court to clarify a point of law, but that cannot change the outcome of an individual case. is not a tool. ,
A spokesman for the CPS said: “We are considering the outcome of the case, but under the law the prosecution cannot appeal a jury acquittal.”
The attorney general’s office said Braverman would act in her independent role as “guardian of the public interest” if she sought a review.
The seldom-used powers were invoked as recently as 2020, when he used them to establish that it was not necessary for prosecutors to prove that the offender’s intention was sexual.
Human rights barrister Kirsty Brimello, experienced in defending protest cases and vice president of the Criminal Bar Association, said such powers are “very rarely used” to refer to a point of law and include ” No surprise”. Legal instructions for this test.
While acquittals are generally “honoured” by jury, Ms. Brimello said, “their right to reverse a not-guilty verdict is an important part of a functioning criminal justice system. It is important that politicians intervene.” And certainly don’t appear to criticize jury acquittals. We see how this happens in repressive regimes around the world.”
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 might be put under 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 15,000 signatures so far.
Some Tory lawmakers echoed the concerns, but others, including several lawyers, dismissed claims that the decision set a legal precedent that could lead to defacement of other public monuments.
TV historian Professor David Olusoga, who provided expert evidence on the history of slavery to defend the trial, told Times Radio: “Honoring the jury’s verdict is one of the traditions that people follow to respect Britain and respect our values. Claims to do. Must stand for.”