No spot for Liam Walker QC as rest of defence team prepare to discuss legal arguments in high-profile trial
One of the ‘Colston Four’ defence barristers has been left off a panel discussion of the legal arguments put forward during the headline-grabbing case.
While three of the four defence advocates will be speaking at a webinar on Colston: The Legal Arguments tomorrow afternoon, the fourth — Liam Walker QC — appears not to have been invited.
His absence follows reports of tension among the four lawyers representing the four defendants, who were acquitted of criminal damage amid a media frenzy earlier this year after pulling down a statue of slaver Edward Colston in June 2020.
Walker, of Doughty Street Chambers, represented 22-year-old Sage Willoughby. The other defendants — Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford and Jake Skuse — were represented by Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, Tom Wainwright of Garden Court Chambers, and Raj Chada of Hodges Jones & Allen respectively.
Garden Court and Matrix have teamed up to organise a seminar trumpeting the legal nous of those involved, with the panel comprised of Ní Ghrálaigh, Wainwright and Chada.
This is despite Walker being the one who “made the submissions on lawful excuse“, which defence is seen among the most plausible reasons for the acquittal (although juries don’t give reasons for their decision and other routes to a not guilty verdict were available). The lawful excuse defence is likely to be a talking point at tomorrow’s event.
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) January 5, 2022
Doughty Street said at the time that Walker’s arguments were “unique” — and is understood to be less than chuffed about rival chambers cutting them out.
It was also Walker who called Professor David Olusoga and “local community leader” Lloyd Russell to give evidence putting Colson’s legacy in context.
A detailed account of the trial in the New Statesman suggests that there were “disagreements” between the legal team, with Walker (not then a silk) almost always “pitched against the other three”.
Walker’s first tweet about the trial, albeit a couple of months afterwards, praised the judge and the prosecution but pointedly did not mention his fellow defence lawyers.
For those interested in 'the statue trial', I give particular credit to the prosecution team of William Hughes QC and David Scutt and also to The Recorder of Bristol in what was a great advert for the jury system. 👇 https://t.co/6dTvoZrf00
— Liam Walker QC (@LiamWalker_7) March 23, 2022
The New Statesman piece suggests that Walker sees his omission from the panel as a “snub”. He declined to comment.
The event is billed as “a joint webinar by Matrix and Garden Court Chambers, to explore the legal defences in the Colston Four case, one of the most high-profile criminal trials in recent years, and look ahead to what the future of protest law may hold”. It takes place at 5pm tomorrow.
Asked whether there was a reason for the QC’s omission, the organisers and panellists did not respond.