Boat race protester Trenton Oldfield jailed for six months over Oxford-Cambridge disruption

Judge accuses Australian Trenton Oldfield of being ‘prejudiced’ against elites and of showing no regret

Steve Anderson
Saturday 20 October 2012 00:07

The 'anti-elitism' protester who disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race by deliberately swimming the path of crews was jailed today for six months.

Trenton Oldfield, of Myrdle Street, east London, who was also ordered to pay £750 costs, was watched by millions of television viewers as he halted the annual race on the Thames between Oxford and Cambridge universities on April 7.

He was found guilty at London's Isleworth Crown Court last month of causing a public nuisance and returned to the same court today to be sentenced.

Oldfield, supported in court by a throng of well-wishers, smirked as Judge Anne Molyneux passed sentence.

But he looked surprised as the jail term was handed down.

The judge said Oldfield had acted dangerously, disproportionately, had not shown what he was actually protesting against, and displayed prejudice in sabotaging the event which Oldfield regarded as elitist.

Judge Molyneux said Oldfield ruined the race for everyone.

"You caused delay and disruption to it and to the members of the public who had gone to watch it and to enjoy the spectacle of top athletes competing," she said.

"The rowers had trained for many months.

"You had no regard for the sacrifices they had made or for their rigorous training when you swam into their paths."

Adding that Oldfield's actions had endangered his life and those of others, the judge said: "You decided that you had the right to stop members of the public enjoying a sporting competition which they had chosen to go and watch.

"You did not have that right.

"You did nothing to address inequality by giving yourself the right to spoil the enjoyment of others.

"In doing so, you acted without regard for equality and contrary to the meaning of it.

"You made your decision to sabotage the race based on the membership or perceived membership of its participants of a group to which you took exception.

"That is prejudice.

"Every individual and group of society is entitled to respect.

"It is a necessary part of a liberal and tolerant society that no one should be targeted because of a characteristic with which another takes issue.

"Prejudice in any form is wrong.

"Your offence was planned. It was deliberate. It was disproportionate. It was dangerous.

"You have shown no regret."

Oldfield would not be deterred from protesting again, his wife, Deepa Naik, said.

Speaking outside court, the 35-year-old attacked Britain and London as being brutal and deeply divided.

She said: "Trenton has spent his adult life working on these issues and his direct action protest on the 7th April 2012 was a natural extension of his everyday work.

"Trenton's protest was a reaction to an increasingly brutal business, media and political elite."

She added: "Great Britain has convinced many it is the home of democracy and the gauge of civilisation. Anyone living here today knows Britain is a brutal, deeply divided, class-driven place.

"London today is the most unequal society in the Western world . This poverty and inequality is entirely unnecessary and has been severely exacerbated by Government cuts and reductions in civil liberties."

This year's Boat Race, won by Cambridge, was described as one of the most dramatic in the contest's history after the wetsuit-clad swimmer was spotted in the vessels' path.

During his trial, Oldfield told the jury the race was a symbol of elitism in Government and that London was blighted by inequality.

Oldfield, an Australian who moved to the UK in 2001, decided to make the protest after learning of Government plans to "sell off" the NHS and "snoop" on electronic communications, and after hearing encouragement to "dob in" people planning protests during the Olympics.

He said some spectators believed his actions had improved the race. "Lots of people thought it made it the most exciting Boat Race ever," he said.

An hour before jurors came back from deliberating to convict him, they sent a note asking for him to be leniently treated.

His barrister, Benjamin Newton, said of him: "Save for the events of April 7th, he could not be regarded as a better role model for civic-minded individuals."