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Boat race saboteur convicted

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Trenton Oldfield, 36, swam into the path of the boat race crews apparently to protest at government plans to 'sell off the NHS and snoop on electronic communications'.  He made his protest in front of millions of television viewers on the 7th April 2012 and the jury hearing his case atIsleworth Crown Courtwas told that in his view the race was a symbol of elitism in government. 

Mr Oldfield is an Australian national who moved to theUKin 2001 and has been working and volunteering in jobs and projects to try and improve the prospects of people living in impoverished areas. His actions stopped the annual race for approximately 30 minutes.

The prosecutor Louis Mably told the court that the race had been spoilt for hundreds of thousands spectators watching from the banks of the River Thames or live on BBC TV.

Oldfield gave evidence to the court and told the jury that "[the boat race] is a symbol of a lot of issues inBritainaround class, 70% of government pushing through very significant cuts areOxfordorCambridgegraduates.  It was a symbolic gesture to these kinds of issues".  He said that some spectators had thought that his actions had improved the race and commented "lots of people thought it made the most exciting boat race ever".

Sir Matthew Pinsent made a statement in the case saying that in his view Oldfield could easily have been killed.  Sir Matthew was an assistant umpire during the race and in his statement said "The risk for the swimmer was great, he could have been killed if he had been struck by an oar or the rigging which is metal. The incident caused me alarm as one of my primary roles is the safety of the competitors and the public at large."  Oldfield denies that his safety was at risk and said that he had plenty of experience of avoiding surfboards, boats, rocks and coral whilst swimming, having grown up in Australia.

The Judge has adjourned the case for sentencing to take place on the 19th October 2012 and has said that on that occasion all sentencing options will be open to the court including the possibility of a sentence of immediate imprisonment.  The Judge confirmed that it was Oldfield's first criminal offence and the court had heard from five individuals who confirmed his good character.

Mr Oldfield has been bailed pending sentence and in a brief statement outside court said "As inequality increases acrossBritainand much of the world, so does the criminalisation of protest.  My solidarity is with  everyone working towards more equitable societies everywhere."

The police investigating office said "Mr Oldfield's one-man protest was designed to disrupt an event enjoyed by thousands of people and he succeeded in holding up the race for around 30 minutes causing serious disruption to all involved.  I hope his conviction and the fact he now has a criminal record proves a deterrent to others intent on committing similar acts in the future and spoiling public events that should be about celebration and enjoyment."