THE man who swam in the Thames to disrupt the annual Boat Race in a protest against elitism has been labelled “prejudiced” and jailed for six months.
Trenton Oldfield, 36, claimed he had been demonstrating when he halted the race between Oxford and Cambridge university crews on 7 April.
Yesterday, Judge Anne Molyneux told him: “You did nothing to address inequality by giving yourself the right to spoil the enjoyment of others.”
Oldfield, of Myrdle Street, east London, was also ordered to pay £750 costs. However, outside court afterwards, his wife launched a passionate defence, calling Britain brutal and deeply divided.
Deepa Naik, 35, said: “Trenton has spent his adult life working on these issues and his direct action protest on the 7 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.”
Oldfield was seen by Olympic champion rower Sir Matthew Pinsent and the race was halted amid farcical scenes.
Oldfield, who smirked as he appeared in court yesterday and was surrounded by supporters, was accused of ruining it for competitors and fans.
“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,” Judge Molyneux 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.”
She said Oldfield’s actions had endangered his life and those of others.
“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. 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, an Australian who moved to the UK in 2001, said he decided to protest after learning of UK 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.