Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Protester Trenton Oldfield And His, Er, Oxford-Educated Lawyers…

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While the decision to jail Trenton Oldfield has been greeted with shock – the New Statesman went as far as to describe the case as “our Pussy Riot” – there has also been amusement at the anti-elitism protester’s rather elite background.

Oldfield attended one of Australia’s most highly-regarded fee-paying schools, before obtaining a masters degree at the London School of Economics and becoming a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

It seems that this taste for establishment excellence may have influenced Oldfield’s choice of lawyers…

Rather than enlist the services of a hot shot legal executive, who’d soared to the top despite never going to university, or hire a plucky lawyer who’d made it into the profession via an ex-poly, Oldfield went the traditional route and instructed two Oxford men.

His solicitor was Oxford University-educated Mike Schwarz, of top civil liberties firm Bindmans, while his barrister was Doughty Street’s Benjamin Newton, also an Oxford graduate.


Uncle Solicitor @UncleSolicitor

Oldfield is likely a mighty fine fellow. He has fire in his belly and wanted to make a point. However he failed to understand something fundamental – You simply do not interrupt a boat race, ever! As for his choice of lawyers, it is neither here nor there. Oxford let in people from all over the world – whether they went to a fine secondary school or not, or whether their uncles are distinguished members of a ministry in some third world dictatorship or not. It matters not! By choosing these lawyers he is making no point. His point is made already by his swimming in the face of death by oar, so whatever his alma mater, especially one in Australia, they likely had a fine swimming team!


The Judge

Dear Uncle Solicitor,

Actually what Oldfield did not realize is with “fire in his belly ” he should not jump in the Thames. While Oxford lets in people from all walks of life, Barristers chambers prefer to have all students from Oxbridge.


Wig and Gown

The CPS on the other hand chose a non-Oxbridge educated Barrister to prosecute the case.



It was a heavy sentence from a judge who must have had little or no connection with the fineries of civil liberties in her former role as a top city property solicitor. If it is so important to prosecute someone who breaks no law by simply swimming in the Thames upstream from Putney Bridge, why was it not appropriate to prosecute the Oxford cox for failing to keep a proper lookout under the Port of London Authority regulations?
Nevertheless, the thought of Oxford’s finest presenting a case involving allegations against their own alma mater is somewhat ironic.



Carnybull- he clearly did break a law: the law against causing a public nuisance. The cox probably didn’t break any laws. Whatever regulations normally apply to rowing on the Thames (I’m not an expert) are almost certainly heavily modified or suspended during the race: otherwise you wouldn’t be allowed to take over the river would you? In any case a steering error in a sporting context would almost certainly not constitute failing to keep a proper lookout.

I also don’t see that the case in any real way involved allegations against Oxford. The only bit that’s ironic, as the article points out, is that Trenton is only too happy to use the much-derided (by him) elites when he thinks it might help him out, much as he was happy to use “elite” educational institutions.



Thanks DC.

Particularly s.5, s.10.i(a) of the Byelaws and s.108(a)-(b) Port of London Authority Act 1968.

There is no indication that any of these laws were suspended during the Boat Race. The cox would be under an obligation to obey any directions from the referee’s boat. This would not affect their general duties as a master of a vessel to navigate safely.

Allegations about Oxford’s elitism were at the heart of the protest and thus central to the defence case.


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