Boat Race protester Trenton Oldfield jailed

media captionHe was found guilty of causing a public nuisance

A man who disrupted this year's University Boat Race has been jailed for six months for causing a public nuisance.

Trenton Oldfield, 36, of Myrdle Street, east London, swam into the path of crews on 7 April interrupting the 158th race between Oxford and Cambridge.

Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent who was on a launch behind the crews said Oldfield could have been killed.

Oldfield said he was demonstrating against government cuts.

The man, who had moved to the UK from Australia, was also ordered to pay £750 costs.

'That is prejudice'

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

She said: "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."

But following the sentencing, outside court, his wife, Deepa Naik, 35, defended his actions.

"Trenton has spent his adult life working on these issues and his direct action protest was a natural extension of his everyday work," she said.

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

"Great Britain has convinced many it is the home of democracy and the gauge of civilisation," she added.

"Anyone living here today knows Britain is a brutal, deeply divided, class-driven place."

'Symbolic gesture'

During the trial, footage of the race, which was eventually won by Cambridge, was shown.

image captionTrenton Oldfield was arrested after being pulled from the water on 7 April

The jury heard a statement from four-time Olympic gold medal-winning rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, who was assistant umpire of the race.

"The risk for the swimmer was great," he said in the statement, read to the court by prosecutor Louis Mably.

"He could have been killed if he had been struck by an oar or the rigging, which is metal."

Pinsent, who was immediately behind the two eight-man university crews on a launch with umpire John Garrett, initially thought he had spotted a balloon.

Their launch was followed by 25 motorised boats, carrying officials, police, sponsors and camera crews.

Pinsent said they were "alarmed" to realise it was a person and he was "worried about the safety of the swimmer".

Oldfield, who admitted swimming in front of the crews, said he decided to demonstrate after hearing about the government's public spending cuts, which he said were "worse than in Dickens's time".

On targeting the race, he said: "It's a symbol of a lot of issues in Britain around class. Seventy per cent of government pushing through very significant cuts are Oxford or Cambridge graduates.

"It was a symbolic gesture to these kind of issues."

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