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Trenton Oldfield – a Pussy Riot case back in Airstrip One

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 1 November 2012

Almost everyone outside Moscow agrees that the jailing of the incredibly untalented Russian all girl punk band Pussy Riot for producing music (I use the term loosely) that attacked President Putin and the Orthodox Church was wrong. No arguments there. But arguably back here in Airstrip One we are guilty of the same sort of behaviour. I refer to Trenton Oldfield, the Aussie born dickhead who swam in from of the eights to disrupt the 158th Oxford Cambridge boat race. I do not agree with what he did but a six month jail sentence raises alarming issues.

Oldfield was protesting against elitism. Having read his political views I disagree with almost all of them. He is a moronic middle class lefty and he deserves to be punished for an idiotic act. But six months?

Initially he was accused of a minor public order offence. He was facing a slap on the wrists and perhaps a fine. However the politicians then intervened. At a Home Affairs Select Committee in April, the Conservative MP Michael Ellis noted that the offence for which Oldfield was arrested was “one of the most minor in the book, carries no custodial penalty option at all and usually only results in a small fine”. He asked Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe whether there were other “available offences” — and Oldfield was therefore tried under the ancient public nuisance laws.

These laws are vague and old but were dusted off to “deter” lone protesters during the Olympics. And now they can and will be used whenever the State feels like it.
The point here is that the Criminal Justice system is meant to be independent of our politicians in order to safeguard our civil liberties. But it clearly is not. MPs feel that if they do not like a protestor because of who he or she is or what they are protesting against or what event they disrupt they can and will intervene to get him or her punished harder. Would Ellis have pushed for a stiffer sentence had the event been less prestigious and the cause been less contentious? Somehow I doubt it.

Before we are too harsh on President Putin this case does beg one or two questions about the way the British state is starting to operate. Chuck in a summer of Police breaking down the doors of Facebook users at midnight to deter them from criticising the State (though no offence was committed) and the arrest of various tweeters and T-shirt wearers and the trend does not look like a good one. George Orwell would have had a few words to say on the matter.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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