Boat race protestor jailed for six months
LONDON (Reuters) - The protestor who disrupted this year's Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race was jailed for six months on Friday, as the judge took a dim view of the first deliberate interruption in the contest's 158 year history.
Sentencing the 36-year-old Australian native, Judge Anne Molyneux ruled that Trenton Oldfield, who had been protesting against what he perceived as elitism in the United Kingdom, had acted dangerously and disproportionately.
"You did nothing to address inequality by giving yourself the right to spoil the enjoyment of others," she said.
"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."
A statement from four-time Olympic rowing gold medallist Matthew Pinsent, who was in a launch near the incident, was read out in court.
"He could have been killed if he had been struck by an oar or the rigging, which is metal," the statement said.
Oldfield, a graduate of the London School of Economics and Sydney Church of England Grammar School - one of the top private schools in Australia - admitted swimming in front of the boats, saying he acted after reading of the British government's spending cuts.
"It was a symbolic gesture to these kind of issues," he said.
Oldfield's wife Deepa Naik insisted that his stint in prison would not deter him from future protest.
"London today is the most unequal society in the Western World," she said outside Isleworth Crown Court after the sentencing.
"This poverty and inequality is entirely unnecessary and has been severely exacerbated by government cuts."
As one of the most famous rowing races in the world, the Boat Race regularly attracts a viewing audience of almost 10 million in Britain alone.
After a substantial delay while the boats slowly returned to the startline, The 158th race was eventually restarted with Cambridge going on to win after the Oxford crew broke an oar.
This was not the first time the race had not gone to plan. Both teams' boats have sunk on previous occasions, with both crews capsizing in 1912, while in 1877 the race finished in a dead heat at the end of the 4.2 mile (6.8km) course.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman and Peter Schwartzstein; Editing by Clare Fallon)
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