Trenton Oldfield deportation: Boat Race protester allowed to stay in UK

Activist wins 'unprecedented' deportation case as judge overturns Theresa May's decision

A judge said today that he intended to overturn Theresa May's decision to deny a visa to the Australian boat race protester Trenton Oldfield, who was facing deportation and separation from his British wife and daughter because his presence in the country was 'not conducive to the public good'.

On an emotional day in court, Mr Oldfield's supporters wept and hugged him after judge Kevin Moore indicated that he would allow the appeal. "There is no doubt as to your character and commitment and the value you are to UK society generally," the judge said. "It would be my intention to allow your appeal."

Outside the North London Immigration and Asylum Chamber, Mr Oldfield said he was “relieved” by the decision. His lawyer, Stephanie Harrison, said that “any independent judge upholding the law was bound to recognise that this wasn't justified. And she added that the decision exposed failings in the Secretary of State's decision-making process in the case. ”It shows that she only focused on one aspect of her responsibility,“ she said. ”She didn't give the case the proper care and attention that it deserved.“

Mr Oldfield, 37, served six weeks of a six month sentence for his infamous disruption of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race last year. He was appealing against the Home Office’s decision, taken in June, to deny him a spousal visa that would mean he could stay in the country. He has lived in the UK since 2001.

The judge did not give his full reasons for the decision, indicating that they would follow in a few weeks time. But earlier, Mr Oldfield had broken down in tears as he told the court that he believed his wife would face racism if the family were forced to move to his native Australia.

With his five-month old baby daughter and his wife Deepa Naik in the back of the courtroom, and dozens of protesters outside, Oldfield described the circumstances leading up to his initial protest. He and his wife had recently returned to the UK after spending seven months in Canada caring for Deepa’s father, who was dying of cancer.

“I think I was vulnerable in terms of realizing how short life can be,” Mr Oldfield said. “I think I was very emotional.” Describing his attitude to the protest now, he added: “I have no willingness to be involved in similar activity again.”

And he told the judge that if he were allowed to stay “I give you my word we won't be here [in a tribunal] again.”

He said that his wife, who is of Indian descent, had never been to Australia and that they could not move there as a family. “Australia is a particularly racist country,” he said, and added that there had been attacks on Indians in Australia in the past.

“Our home is here,” he added. “Australia is on the other side of the world.”

Mr Oldfield’s lawyers argued that the protest “was not of sufficient gravity or seriousness to justify the decision taken” to deport him. And they said that taking into account the impact on his British wife and daughter’s right to family life, the decision to deny him the visa would be “disproportionate”. Ms Harrison told the judge, Kevin Moore, that he had “unfettered discretion” to overturn the decision to deny Mr Oldfield a visa. “His presence is neither undesirable nor contrary to the public good,” she said.

Activists from the pressure group Defend The Right To Protest waiting outside called the Home Office decision “farcical”. “His case is high profile,” said Hannah Dee, one of the protesters. “They’ve decided to make an example of him.” Ms Naik agreed, and described the support as “amazing”. “It makes me tear up,” she said. 

Stephanie Harrison had previously told The Independent that in her legal experience his case was unprecedented. “In 20 years, I’ve never seen a case of someone with a six-month conviction for a public order offence being tested over the ‘public good’.”

Mr Oldfield has submitted a file of over 100 letters testifying to the positive impact of his community work. One of the authors, Oxford geography professor Danny Dorling, was present as a witness for Mr Oldfield today. “It’s odd,” he said outside the courtroom. “I can’t think of a parallel. It makes it look like we have a real hang-up about stepping slightly out of line.”

The court also heard Jeremy Till, the head of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, speaking in Mr Oldfield's favour. “He's not going to be a public nuisance, I don't think there's any evidence he'd do it again,” said Professor Till, who coxed the Cambridge lightweight rowing team as a student. “And I think there's a lot of good in what he does.”

After the hearing had concluded, Mr Oldfield broke off from speaking to reporters saying that he had to take care of his baby daughter. But before striding down the road surrounded by supporters, he said that he remained “anxious about everyone else going through the same process” of deportation and that he wanted to bring more attention to what he called the “criminalisation” of protest. 

A previous suggestion that the judge ruled in favour of Trenton Oldfield due to racism in Australia may have been misleading. We are happy to clarify that the judge cited Mr Oldfield's value to UK society in making his decision, as stated in this piece.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence