Australian Boat Race protester Trenton Oldfield told to leave Britain

Australian's visa refused after he swam in front of crews during university contest on Thames

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 5:38am


The Australian anti-elitism activist who disrupted the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities in protest at government cuts has been ordered to leave Britain.

Trenton Oldfield, whose British wife is expecting a child this week and who has lived in the UK for 10 years, has had his application for a spousal visa refused.

The Home Office informed the 37-year-old his continued presence in Britain would not be "conducive to the public good" after he swam in front of the crews during the 158th Boat Race on the River Thames.

Oldfield, who was given a six-month jail term and served two months, said he had appealed against the visa ruling.

"No one was expecting this. I have a tier one visa, as a highly skilled migrant, and I was sentenced to less than a year.

"The lawyer said I had nothing to worry about because it was less than a year. It feels that this is a very vindictive decision, very political and very much an over-reaction." He stressed his protest was peaceful and non-violent.

"Before bringing their verdict, the jury asked the judge if she could be lenient. The probation officer recommended a non-custodial sentence. The sentence was excessive, but the judge also said I have contributed positively to life in this country."

Oldfield, who has no previous convictions, rejected the notion that he might return to Australia.

His wife, Deepa Naik has never been there and she has relatives in the UK. "We clearly have a life together here," he said. "We work together, we publish books, we run two not-for-profit organisations. Every part of our lives is entangled together here. We are about to have a family."

He told the court his protest, which halted the race for 25 minutes, was designed to highlight elitism in British society.

Before setting out, he wrote a blog setting out his rationale and making clear his plan did not constitute an act of terrorism.

"People tell me that on the day of the race, 500,000 people looked up the word 'elitism' on Google. It sparked a debate."

His wife, 36, knew nothing of his intentions. She was abroad and he hid the plan from her for fear she would be prosecuted as part of a joint enterprise.

"We didn't think they would seek to effectively deport him," Naik said. "We were told that was for violent criminals, major fraudsters and terrorists. Nothing Trenton did approaches that."

She added: "We can't not live and work together. That's impossible. I can't be separated from him. I don't think people will see his sentence and this decision as reasonable consequences from a peaceful protest.

"It seems to reinforce the point he was making about the Boat Race. Would this be happening if he had disrupted any other event?"

Jailing Oldfield last October, Judge Anne Molyneux ruled that Oldfield acted "dangerously and disproportionately".

Campaigning journalist John Pilger said the decision was ridiculous. "He is not a criminal or a terrorist. He was a protester acting on principle, whether or not you agreed with his action.

"What the Home Office is really saying is that all forms of protest are now potentially criminalised," he said.