The attorney general has said she is “carefully considering” whether to refer the Colston statue case to the court of appeal after a jury cleared four protesters of criminal damage over the toppling of the monument.
Suella Braverman announced she was contemplating what would be a highly unusual move after an outcry from Conservative MPs following the jury’s verdict on Wednesday. The former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick suggested the rule of law had been undermined while Tom Hunt, a vice-chair of the parliamentary Common Sense Group, said he was “deeply concerned by the precedent set here”, despite jury decisions not setting legal precedents.
Writing on Twitter on Friday, Braverman said: “Trial by jury is an important guardian of liberty and must not be undermined. However, the decision in the Colston statue case is causing confusion.
“Without affecting the result of this case, as attorney general, I am able to refer matters to the court of appeal so that senior judges have the opportunity to clarify the law for future cases. I am carefully considering whether to do so.”
If the case does go to the court of appeal, the judges will not be able to rule on whether the jury’s decision was correct, only on whether there was an error in law in the directions that were given to the jury.
Juries have an absolute right to acquit, which they have exercised in the past for protesters against climate change and military action, even when defendants have admitted causing disruption or damage.
People who have used, grown or supplied cannabis for the purposes of alleviating pain have also been acquitted by juries in the past, as was Clive Ponting, a senior Ministry of Defence official, in 1985, who was tried under the Official Secrets Act for revealing to an MP that government ministers had misled parliament over the sinking of the Argentinian warship General Belgrano during the Falklands war.