Trenton Oldfield has been found guilty of causing a public nuisance after disrupting this year’s Boat Race by swimming into the path of the competing crews.
The 36-year-old, from east London, had earlier denied the charge, telling the jury that the race was a symbol of ‘elitism’.
Oldfield admitted disrupting the boat race, but told the court, ‘[The Boat Race] is 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. [The protest] was a symbolic gesture to these kind of issues.’
He added that he made the decision to protest after learning of the government’s public spending cuts, including the decision to ‘sell off’ the NHS. He described such cuts as ‘worse than in Dickens’s time,’ adding, ‘London has the highest inequality in the western world’.
Prosecutor Louis Mably told the court that the Boat Race had been spoiled for hundreds of thousands of spectators, as well as the two crews.
Oldfield, however, disagreed that he had ruined the Boat Race, commenting, ‘Lots of people thought it made it the most exciting Boat Race ever.’ He also disputed the claims that he put himself in danger, telling the court that having lived in Australia, he was used to dodging surfboards, rocks and boats.
Judge Anne Molyneux said that all options were open in sentencing Oldfield. ‘The court will be considering if a custodial sentence is necessary,’ she said.
Earlier, a statement from four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent was read to the jury. ‘The risk to the swimmer was great. He could have been killed if he was 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 public and competitors,’ explained Pinsent.
Oldfield was released on bail. He is due to be sentenced on 19th October.