Toppling Edward Colston’s statue not protected by human rights, judges rule

Lord Burnett said: “Although this case did not involve the destruction of the statue, the damage that was caused was clearly significant. Pulling this heavy bronze statue to the ground required it to be climbed, ropes attached to it and then the use of a good deal of force to bring it crashing to the ground.”

He added: “The circumstances in which the statue was damaged did not involve peaceful protest. The toppling of the statute was violent. Moreover, the damage to the statue was significant.

“On both these bases, we conclude that the prosecution was correct in its submission at the abuse hearing that the conduct in question fell outside the protection of the Convention.”

However, the Court of Appeal judges accepted that Strasbourg case law had established that where damage to property during a protest was “transient or insignificant”, this had not been found to be “outside” protection offered by the Convention.

However, it accepted that Strasbourg judges had argued that “any” damage caused to property during a protest, however minor, was not protected by human rights.

“It is theoretically possible that cases involving minor or trivial damage to property heard in the Magistrates’ Court may raise a question of the proportionality of conviction. In those limited circumstances, a conviction may not be a proportionate response in the context of protest,” said the summary judgement.

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