A HAMPSHIRE man has been cleared of criminal damage for toppling and dumping a stature of slave trader Edward Colston in a harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Milo Ponsford, 26, from Otter Close, Bishopstoke, was found not guilty of the crime in court.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave merchant was pulled down during a protest in Bristol on June 7, 2020, and was rolled into Bristol Harbour.

Despite the huge crowd of people involved, just four face trial.

Daily Echo:

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, were caught on CCTV passing the ropes around the statue that were used to pull it down.

Jake Skuse, 33, was accused of orchestrating a plan to throw it in the harbour.

On Wednesday they were cleared by a jury at Bristol Crown Court after almost three hours of deliberations following a two-week trial.

There were loud cheers from the packed public gallery after the not guilty verdicts were returned.

Daily Echo:

An estimated £3,750 of damage was done to the statue – including removing its staff and a coat tail – and £350 of damage was caused to the railings of Pero’s Bridge.

All four defendants admitted their involvement but denied their actions were criminal, claiming the statue itself had been a hate crime against the people of Bristol.

They chose to have the case heard by a jury at Bristol Crown Court, even though it could have been dealt with by a magistrate.