Is boat race protester Trenton Oldfield the 'British Pussy Riot'?

Incredulity greets six-month jail sentence for man who disrupted the boat race

LAST UPDATED AT 15:16 ON Fri 19 Oct 2012

TRENTON OLDFIELD, the man who disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge boat race in April by swimming across the Thames, has been jailed for six months after a judge attacked him for being "prejudiced" against those taking part in the race.

The Australian, who was protesting against elitism and government cuts, was convicted of causing a public nuisance last month and was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court.

Sending him to prison, Judge Anne Molyneux described his behaviour as disproportionate and dangerous and said he had shown no remorse for his actions. "You made your decision to sabotage the race based on the membership or perceived membership of a group to which you took exception. That is prejudice. No good ever comes of prejudice," she said.

It was a "blistering attack" on Oldfield by the judge said The Times.

Several papers remark on the fact that Oldfield "smirked" as he awaited his sentence. "The judge, sitting at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, noted that Oldfield smiled as she spoke," reports The Daily Telegraph, perhaps tellingly. "But as she sentenced him to six months behind bars, he looked stunned and slowly shook his head from side to side."

The reaction on social networking sites like Twitter has also been one of surprise, and news of the six-month jail term generated incredulity in some quarters.

Some even drew comparisons between the fate of Oldfield and jailed Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who are regarded by many as political prisoners.

Former Charlatans singer Tim Burgess tweeted: "Trenton Oldfield who disrupted the boat race has been given six months in jail. And here's us thinking the Pussy Riot sentence was draconian."

Others drew comparisons with the fate of TV presenter Justin Lee Collins, who escaped jail despite being found guilty of harassing his girlfriend.

There was also a widespread feeling that the "establishment" had been offended by Oldfield's actions. "The boat race protestor Trenton Oldfield is a tool, but six months in the pokey? Disrespect for Oxbridge now clearly a criminal offence," wrote Kenny Farquharson, the deputy editor of Scotland on Sunday, who summed up the thoughts of many.

New Statesman legal blogger David Allen Green agreed. "Cannot seriously believe that, had it not been an Oxford/Cambridge thing, Trenton Oldfield would have received six months in prison," he said.

"Is it just me?" asked another Twitter user called Peter Smith. "There seems to be a growing disconnect between crime and punishment. Trenton Oldfield behaved like a prat but six months' jail?" · 

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Free Trenton!!!

Transport the b4st4rd. Send him to Australia!

She describes her work thus:
"This is the best job in the world. You are a part of the criminal justice system and the work is about ensuring that cases are tried fairly and that people are treated with respect, no matter who they are and no matter what their role in the proceedings might be."

And she wanted to be a judge from the age of 5.

I agree with Pete Smith's tweet quoted above. A prat but not within a thousand miles of deserving a custodial sentence in a world that spares the same fate to some violent pople.

I think she forgot the bit about treating people with respect no matter etc.

Can't get in with a criminal record !!!

Beautiful irony...reversing Graucho...."We don't want anyone like us as a member of our club".

May have to rely on the fact he is Aussie!

He's a pussy -- but he's no riot

There's a worrying trend towards jailing people for "prattism" in the UK. Other recent examples include the guy who was jailed for wearing an anti-police t-shirt in Manchester, the kid who made offensive jokes about April Jones on facebook and the BNP guy who used the word "darkie" in a blog.

He deserved the sentence. Its not only about what he did, it's also about the total lack of respect he's shown to the judge and everyone else that played a part in the heavy sentence. I hate anybody looking down their nose at me while smirking, so I would probably have done the same as the judge. He needs to learn respect. Maybe he will learn it in jail.

These things you mentioned worry me but the examples you gave are to do with freedom of speech. They are not disruptive but this prat is different and deserves 6 months. He examples you gave did not deserve any jail time.

No, she did not forget about treating people with respect. That may actually be the reason he got 6 months. He was acting like a prat in front of the judge by smirking and showing lack of respect towards her. He has no respect for anyone so I agree with this judge.

How is this not a freedom of speech issue? The public nuisance charge is just a smokescreen. This as much about freedom of speech as the Pussy Riot case was.

I don't see how you can say the public nuisance charge is a smokescreen when he disrupted the lives of millions who just wanted to watch a boat race in peace.

What he was protesting about was stupid anyway. If it was done for something more worthwhile then maybe the judge would have been more sympathetic and given him a lighter sentence.

Justin Yoo

This was the guy who jumped in the river and disrupted the activities of others. How is that a "freedom of speech" issue?

Millions? I can see how he disrupted the lives of its participants, and even the people there in person, but millions? A bit hyperbolic don't you think?

If you take at face value that he was was protesting elitism and governmental cuts--then it is a freedom of speech issue--in the same way that burning a flag is protected as 'speech' in America, because of the underlying statement being made by the act of desecrating the flag.

Justin Yoo

By the same reasoning, if he had shot someone in defence of freedom of speech (he said) that would be a "freedom of speech issue"?

I hope you will allow me the freedom to say you are 4king crackers.

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