Charlie Gilmour – 21 year old son of Pink Floyd guitarist David – was jailed for 16 months on Friday after pleading guilty to violent disorder at last December’s tuition fee protests. The Cambridge University student was plastered across the next days’ papers after this photograph of him swinging from the Cenotaph was taken . Here are 16 reasons why Charlie Gilmour should not have been given a 16 month custodial sentence…

1)      Yes, swinging from the Cenotaph (a memorial commemorating fallen soldiers in all British wars) is an idiotic thing to do, but it was not the offence that Gilmour was convicted for. The violent disorder offence referred to starting a fire with paper, kicking at a window of the Oxford Street’s flagship Topshop store and carrying the leg of a mannequin. 16 months. For starting a fire with paper, kicking at a window of the Oxford Street’s flagship Topshop store and carrying the leg of a mannequin…

2)      The 16 month sentence given to Gilmour is – according to the Sentencing Council’s Guidelines and pointed out by India Knight in today’s Sunday Times – four months more than the recommended sentence for sexual attack with ‘penetration with a body part’. (Apologies for not being able to link to Knights’s article, fulfilling the cliché I am a poor student unable to access what lies behind the online paywall).

3)      Gilmour caused no physical violence, or harm, to anyone – he caused nobody to get hurt.

4)      The sentence is also 16 whole months longer than those given to 22 rapists last year, who received no custodial sentence after being found guilty.

5)      Charlie Gilmour is clearly unfairly being used to make an example of students involved in the protests.

6)      Yet Ed Woollard has already fulfilled the role of student-to-be-made example-of after being sentenced to two years and eight months after throwing an extinguisher from the roof of the Millbank tower also during the student protests. I was on Work Experience at The Daily Echo when Woollard’s arrest was announced and spoke to several of his friends at the local college where he attended. A picture emerged of a shy boy, quiet, heavily involved with fundraising at the college. Woollard had never been to London before the protest, and the thing that stayed with me when I was investigating the story was that he set up a Facebook page titled ‘I am the King of my Bedroom’, where his cat was the administrator of the page. Does that strike you as someone who clearly intended to attempt murdering a police officer? Or a young guy – admittedly a huge idiot for doing so – who got caught up and carried away? Clearly, I am sure he is not the type to survive his sentence inside well. (Note, I am absolutely not condoning what he did).

7)      If Woollard’s sentence did not provide enough of a deterrent or message to student protesters, then look no further than Alfie Medows, a student who was forced to have emergency brain surgery after being hit by a police baton and is now facing the charge of violent disorder himself too, as pointed out by Laurie Penny in The Newstateman. Meadows could face up to five years in jail is found guilty. Does Charlie Gilmour need to be made an example of when police have already sent out such a clear message to protesters?

8)      As part of his violent disorder charge, Gilmour is accused of sitting on one of the cars that escorted Prince Charles and Camilla through the West End  and was infamously targeted by student protesters. This is something Gilmour denies. He could, y’know, actually be telling the truth.

9)      During Gilmour’s hearing, 13 character references were given defending the student. Included were ones from ‘very distinguished’ members of society such as BBC boss Alan Yentob and the chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis.

10)   Gilmour ignorantly claims he was not aware of the significance of the Cenotaph, or even what it was. I too am extremely ignorant and highly embarrassed to admit that, before this, I too was unaware. I didn’t attend Cambridge and Judge Nicholas Price used Gilmour’s education as a reason to disbelief his ignorance, but again, he may be telling the truth. (A bigger issue lies here in the presence of such ignorance amongst young students – myself included – but that is a different debate).

11)   The point of prison is, as well as to punish criminals, protect society from danger. I do not think that society is in less danger now Charlie Gilmour is behind bars.

12)   Such a heavy-handed sentence challenges one of the most important rights in this country – the right to protest. As Barbara Ellen writes in The Observer, ‘in truth, showing up for the march was the first and last useful thing Gilmour did that day. If people like him have now been scared away, they will be sorely missed.’

13)   Most criticisms of Gilmour imply or go along the line of an argument something like ‘just because his Dad’s famous, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it’, ect.. However, Charlie’s links to rock royalty are most probably the very same reason why he is being given an excessively long sentence and used as a warning image in the national media. Hypocritical?

14)   Gilmour did apologise for ‘the terrible insult to the thousands of people who died bravely for our country’ that his actions represented. He added, ‘my intention was not to attack or defile to Cenotaph. Running along with a crowd of people who had just been violently repelled by the police, I got caught up in the spirit of the moment.’

15)   Extensive research has been conducted on behavior in crowds, suggesting that is it more common than people realise to do something which is then instantly regretted.

16)   Hands up who’s never got caught up in a moment? Thought so.


It is probably also worth noting that if the judicial system impressed such severe sentences across the board then I would look on at developments in the phone hacking scandal involving David Cameron, Chief Executive of News International Rebekah Brooks, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson with interest.

End Note: I do think that Charlie Gilmour is an absolute idiot, and absolutely do not condone his actions. Sometime I just despair so much at the right-wing coverage of such news that I feel compelled to write opposing arguments leading those to label me a ‘commie socialist student’ in retaliation.


This article was re-published on The National Student.