Common sense prevails – Early release for Charlie Gilmour

Emily Loud - Deputy News Editor 17 November 2011

Charlie Gilmour, the Girtonian who received a 16-month prison sentence in July for disorderly behaviour during the student protests, was released on Tuesday after serving only four months. Despite losing his case at the Court of Appeal last month, he has been set free on the condition that he comply with a curfew enforced by electronic tag.

His solicitor announced that this measure would continue until at least half way through the 16-month sentence, calling the move “standard procedure”. In support of this, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice commented, “He was not released early. When a prisoner is given a sentence, they must serve a minimum of a quarter of that sentence in prison and then they will be assessed.”

Charlie, the adopted son of the Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, gained notoriety after being photographed swinging from the Cenotaph during the protests against tuition fees in December last year. He was seen as part of the crowd that attacked the royal convoy during the same protest in what the judge who convicted him in July described as “outrageous and deeply offensive behaviour”.

Although he completed the second year of his history degree, it is unclear how he will proceed with his studies. A spokesman for the University confirmed that Gilmour would not be returning imminently as a third year, stating: “It is absolutely out of the question – he would have to do a full cycle. If he were to come back it would have to be next October. The college would have to make the decision and we don’t even know whether he wants to come back yet.”

Girton College has not yet come to a decision about whether he will be able to return.

Reactions to his release have so far been mixed. James Streather, a third year Girton historian, said that he was “gutted that we haven’t been able to have him back this year. I really hope that we get him back at Girton next year, since he deserves a second chance. He is really intelligent and kind when you get to know him.”

On the nature of Gilmour’s sentence, he added “it was very harsh, a case of misusing justice to set an example that wasn’t really necessary.”

Matthew Johnson, president of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, told The Cambridge Student, “What Mr Gilmour did during the student riots was despicable, not only did he cause extensive physical damage, along with many others, but he threatened the right of peaceful protest that we are so lucky to enjoy in this country.

“Having said that it is evident from his comments in court and his guilty plea that he is remorseful about his actions on that day and I believe there is nothing to be gained from keeping him in prison any longer.”

Outside the Cambridge bubble, war veterans have expressed shock at his release, after calling his behaviour in connection to the war memorial a “disgrace”. Despite the notoriety that ‘the Cenotaph picture’ has gained, it was not for this that Gilmour was actually convicted.

Emily Loud – Deputy News Editor