Fathers 4 Justice
Fathers 4 Justice (or F4J) began as a fathers’ rights organisation in the United Kingdom. It became prominent and frequently discussed in the media following a series of high-visibility stunts and protests often in costume. The United Kingdom branch was temporarily disbanded in January 2006, following allegations of a plot by members to kidnap the youngest son of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.Four months later, in May 2006, the group reformed and protested during the live broadcast of the BBC lottery show The National Lottery: Jet Set.
Fathers 4 Justice was founded in the UK by Matt O’Connor, a marketing consultant and father. Following separation from his wife in 2000, O’Connor became a prominent critic of UK family law after a court barred him from seeing his young sons outside of a contact centre.
F4J’s stated aim is to champion the cause of equal parenting, family law reform and equal contact for divorced parents with children. It is well-known for its campaigning techniques of dramatic protest stunts, usually dressed as comic book superheroes and frequently scaling public buildings, bridges and monuments.
Stunts have included supporters storming courts dressed in Father Christmas outfits, clapping the Government’s ‘Children’s Minister’ in handcuffs, and most notably group member Jason Hatch climbing onto Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman. They have also protested by handcuffing two government ministers.
The Greek Professor Nicolas Spitalas (http://spitalas.blogspot.com) formed the F4J in Greece – Thessaloniki (http://www.sos-sygapa.eu) who between 2004 and 2011 provoked many activities and demonstrations in Greece.
Matt O’Connor resigned as F4J Leader and a new group called “Real Father 4 Justice” took over the name. Their chairman is Mike Kelly.
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On 17 December 2002, O’Connor and a small group of supporters staged their first protest by storming the Lord Chancellor’s Officedressed as Father Christmas. In January 2003, O’Connor officially founded Fathers 4 Justice. The group targeted the homes of family court judges and family lawyers’ homes and offices with traditional protests.
On 21 October 2003, campaigners Eddie “Goldtooth” Gorecki and Jonathan “Jolly” Stanesby scaled the Royal Courts of Justice, dressed respectively as Batman and Robin. The following day, the group’s members rallied through London around a military tank in solidarity with Goreckwi and Stanesby.
Nine days later, group member David Chick scaled a 120 feet (37 m) crane near Tower Bridge, London dressed as Spider-Man. TheMetropolitan Police set up a cordon around the area that disrupted traffic through some of East London for several days. Chick was subsequently cleared and published a ghost-written autobiography in February 2006.
On the morning of 22 December 2003, four campaigners – Eddie Gorecki, Jolly Stanesby, Michael Sadeh and Steve Battlershill – dressed as Father Christmas and climbed on top of Tower Bridge. They hung up a banner calling for the resignation of then Minister for Children Margaret Hodge, who they held responsible for perceived inequalities in family law. The four were charged with conspiracy, but the charge was dropped at the start of the trial a year later.
In 2004 Stanesby carried out a “citizens arrest” of Margaret Hodge at a conference, handcuffing himself to her and stating “”Margaret Hodge, I’m arresting you for covering up child abuse.” Both Stanseby and Jason Hatch (who had also attempted to handcuff himself to Hodge) were later cleared by a jury of charges of false imprisonment.
On 19 May 2004, a major alert was caused when two members of the group threw purple flour bombs at Tony Blair during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons. Following the House of Commons incident The Times wrote that the group “has succeeded in becoming the most prominent guerrilla pressure group in Britain … within eighteen months of its founding.”
In September 2004 the group made headlines around the world when member Jason Hatch scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman. All charges relating to his protest were later dropped.
Protests of a similar nature occurred outside the UK; a protest by a member dressed as Robin the Boy Wonder was held for twelve hours on the Pattullo Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. On 6 May 2005 the group made headlines again after a member dressed as Superman climbed up scaffolding in Old City Hall in Toronto, Ontario to unfurl a banner.
On 27 September 2005, protester Guy Harrison scaled The Houses of Parliament unveiling a banner stating “Does Blair care? For Fawkes sake change family law.” A jury acquitted him of the charge of committing a public nuisance offence.
In November 2005, the group received negative publicity when the prime-time ITV programme Tonight With Trevor McDonald appeared to expose some of its members as violent and obnoxious in their behaviour. However, counter-claims have been made that these were never members in the first place and that the programme gave no right to reply.
Some members were expelled but the organisation defended its position and attacked the documentary. On 23 November 2005, Fathers 4 Justice ended its truce with CAFCASS and the Child Support Agency, calling for a public inquiry into family law.
During January 2006 the British newspaper The Sun published a story in which it claimed fringe F4J members planned to kidnap Leo Blair, the young son of former Prime Minister Tony Blair ‘for a few hours as a symbolic gesture’. The police said they were aware of such a plan, but added it had probably never progressed beyond the “chattering stage”. Downing Street refused to confirm or deny the existence of a plot as it does not comment on matters concerning the Prime Minister’s children.
Fathers 4 Justice founder Matt O’Connor condemned the alleged plot and threatened to shut down the group because of it. Within days, Fathers 4 Justice had been disbanded.
On 20 May 2006, Fathers 4 Justice protested during the showing of the BBC lottery show “The National Lottery: Jet Set“. The show was taken off-air for several minutes after six Fathers 4 Justice protesters ran from the audience onto the stage displaying posters. The protesters were soon removed from the studio and the lottery draws were hurriedly finished in order to start coverage of the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest. A group spokesman stated afterwards that the incident marked a “dramatic return” of Fathers 4 Justice.
There was no widely publicised further action until that November, when Jonathan Stanesby climbed onto the roof of family court Judge David Tyzack’s home dressed as Santa Claus. Stanesby claimed the judge was holding a shotgun, but Judge Tyzack said he had taken the gun out thinking the noise on the roof was a bird. Stanesby told reporters he was still restricted to seeing his daughter one weekend every two weeks.
On 10 December 2006, F4J USA staged a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party, titled the ‘Boston “Custo-Tea” Party’. It was a protest at perceived corruption in the family court system, in which they claimed lawyers provoked custody battles between parents for profit.
In July 2007 F4J member and barrister Michael Cox was jailed for refusing to pay money he owed to the Child Support Agency. Cox told a hearing in Southampton he refused to pay on principle, as he had joint custody of his children, and his former wife wrote to the court in support of him.
On 17 August 2007 two members of F4J UK (Mike Downes and Jolly Stanesby) in conjunction with one member of F4J US (Donald Tenn) participated in the first ever United States F4J demonstration. Jolly Stanesby and Mike Downes dressed as Batman and Captain America scaled the Lincoln Memorial and draped a banner promoting Fathers Rights across Lincoln’s chest.
During 2008, key ex F4J members began protests under the banner of ‘New Fathers for Justice’, as F4J founder O’Connor had once again shut down his organisation claiming that, “it was only ever meant to be a 3 year campaign”.
On 8 June 2008, two fathers from Fathers for Justice UK climbed onto the roof of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman‘s house wearing superhero-style costumes dubbed “Captain Conception” and “Cash Gordon”. One of the pair, Mark Harris, said he wanted fathers to have the same right as their mothers’ new partners. He also said they would not come down unless Harman read his book, “Family Court Hell”.. Mr. Harris later received a conditional discharge while his colleague Jolly Stanesby was jailed for two months.
In the same month, Bristol Family Court was evacuated after a protest by around 30 F4J supporters.
On 9 July 2008, another set of fathers, this time in Spider-Man and Batman outfits, scaled Harman’s roof and draped a banner emblazoned “Stop The War On Dads”. Nigel Ace, the Spider-Man character, called for legal reforms through a loudhailer on the roof. Harman claimed the group had never sought democratic dialogue with her, but O’Connor claimed he had been ignored after trying to get in touch through his MP Mark Oaten.
In August 2008, F4J member Tim Line dressed as Batman and climbed onto the roof of senior family court Judge, Lord Justice Sir Matthew Thorpe at Seend, Near Devizes, Wiltshire. The protest lasted 36 hours. A month later, Fathers 4 Justice founder Matt O’Connor closed down the group.
The next month, the gay community professed outrage after New F4J lobbied Dawn Primarolo MP, an ardent supporter of gay adoption, with a banner reading “Kids need real Dads, not Dawn’s lesbo dads”. Pink News carried a quote from an un-named protester saying gay people should not adopt children.
On 27 September 2008, two members of F4J US, Donald Tenn dressed as Spider-Man and Paul Fisher dressed as Superman scaled a 200′ crane in Columbus, Ohio. Tenn and Fisher suspended a banner from the crane that said, “Stop the war on Fatherhood, Fathers 4 Justice”. On 30 September after a 3 day protest Fisher climbed down and surrendered to waiting police. On September 31 after a 4 day protest Tenn climbed down and surrendered. Both men were charged with felony vandalism which was later reduced to misdemeanor charges.
On 25 February 2009, New Fathers 4 Justice protester Richard West scaled a pylon at Exeter Racecourse to protest at the town’s MP Ben Bradshaw’s refusal to meet the group. That day, Bradshaw was attending an event called “Visible, Valued and Vocal”, organised by the charity Equality South West as part of LGBT History Month.
On 24 April 2010 several members of the group stormed into the commentating area of the 2010 World Snooker Championship during an interview with Steve Davis, repeatedly chanting the name of the group before they were removed.
On 23 April 2011, Fathers4Justice President Donald Tenn undertook a “30 day protest for children’s rights” This protest entailed Donald Tenn residing atop a 150′ communications tower in Sacramento, California for a full 30 days, no food, fluids only. Demands were made and met for a Proclamation recognizing April 25th as Parental Alienation Awareness Day in Sacramento, California. Additional statewide requests through Governor Jerry Brown’s office were also requested. After receiving the Proclamation on Tuesday, May 24th, Donald Tenn descended from the tower, he had lost a full 20 pounds and suffered from severe dehydration in this campaign.
Fathers 4 Justice is also active in Israel. On March 15, 2011, a Petition was launched to Israel’s High Court of Justice seeking to end gender discrimination in custody and visitations. It is claimed that fathers must obtain consents from mothers to visitations, or else they must convince a social worker that the best interests of the child require visitations, and in the absence of consent, the fathers are sent to supervised contact centers for one hour a week. The Petition also claims that Israel is signatory to International treaties requiring the protection of a right to family life, but unlike the rest of the world that interprets this right to include rights to contact and access (visitations) of the parent himself, the State of Israel still does not recognize a parental right to access children in divorce or separation.
Members of the group are alleged to have conducted intimidating attacks in order to upset court staff and family lawyers. These attacks include throwing purple paint – the group’s colour – on the outside of CAFCASS buildings, pushing rotten meat or fish through letterboxes, sending fake bombs, hate mail and verbal abuse. Fathers 4 Justice has admitted to incidents involving CAFCASS property but deny harassing individuals. During protests outside CAFCASS offices, individual case workers were identified by name in a similar style to animal rights protesters. One office was invaded by F4J members and detained an unnamed employee, (however, no criminal proceedings are known to have resulted).
Fathers 4 Justice’s main impact remains upon media coverage and legal treatment of fathers’ rights issues in the UK. The use of high-profile and disruptive stunts has garnered significant UK media coverage.
The political aims of the group are as yet unachieved, but one of its central aims – the removal of secrecy surrounding family courts – is the subject of active political debate. In 2006, the Court of Appeal set a precedent allowing adults to discuss secret cases after they had finished. This resulted in a number of high-profile scandals, chiefly concerning adoption. In February 2009, Justice Minister Jack Straw announced plans to reverse this ruling.
A significant, unintended result of the F4J campaign has been the exposure of flaws in security at high-profile British institutions, resulting in security enquiries or reviews at Buckingham Palace and the House of Commons.
- Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
- Child Support Agency (CSA)
- Child custody
- Donald Tenn
- Equal Parenting Alliance: political party
- Families Need Fathers
- Family law
- Fathers’ rights
- Fathers’ rights movement in the UK
- Non-Custodial Parents Party (Australian political party)
- Parental alienation
- Parental alienation syndrome
- Parenting plan
- Pressure groups in the United Kingdom
- Shared parenting
- Discrimination Against Men in Israeli Family Courts
- ^ a b Deborah Ross “Matt O’Connor: The man behind Fathers4Justice”, The Independent, 4 July 2006
- ^ Dawar, Anil (9 July 2008). “Fathers 4 Justice campaigners stage protest on Harman’s rooftop”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- ^ “Rooftop protest by ‘caped crusaders'”. BBC News. 2003-10-21. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Rally over fathers’ rights”. BBC News. 2003-10-22. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Spider-Man cordon criticised”. BBC News. 2003-11-03. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Spider-Man cleared after police tactics are revealed”. The Times. 15 May 2004. p. Pg 5.
- ^ “Two cleared in handcuffed MP case”. BBC News. 3 October 2007.
- ^ “Blair hit during Commons protest”. BBC News. 2004-05-19. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Best of Times Worst of Times Jason Hatch”. The Times(London). 19 December 2004.
- ^ “London Eye protester not guilty”. BBC News. 22 February 2005.
- ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-12436745.html
- ^ “Fathers protester wins court case”. BBC News. 13 October 2006.
- ^ “Police aware of ‘Leo kidnap plot'”. BBC News. 2006-01-18. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Fathers 4 Justice to end campaign”. BBC News. 2006-01-18. Retrieved 2006-06-03.
- ^ “Lottery show delayed by protest”. BBC News. 2006-05-20. Retrieved 2006-05-20.
- ^ Luke Salkeld, Fathers rights rooftop protestor accuses judge of aiming gun, Daily Mail, 28 November 2006. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
- ^ Gibb, Frances (26 June 2007). “Father jailed for refusing to pay child maintenance despite exwifes support”. The Times(London). Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- ^ . London. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-464366/Fathers-rights-campaigner-jailed-child-support-battle.htm.[dead link]
- ^ Pink News, 22 September;http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9056.html
- ^ Elliott, John; Taher, Abul (21 November 2004). “Fathers terrorise lawyers”. The Times (London). Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- ^ “Justice Ministry to bar parents from telling their own stories”. The Independent (London). 15 February 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- ^ “Urgent review over Palace protest”. BBC News. 14 September 2004. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- ^ Thompson, Jonathan; Goodchild, Sophie (23 May 2004).“Fathers 4 Justice militants vow to strike back on D (for Dads’) Day”. The Independent (London). Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- Official Fathers 4 Justice Website
- Official Fathers4Justice USA website
- Fathers 4 Justice – Official Website (UK)
- Lottery show delayed by protest
- Fathers’ rights group scale abbey 13 April 2006
- Bob Geldof supports Fathers for Justice calling them heroic after critics attack their leadership. 27 May 2005
- Easter 2005 St Paul’s Cathedral demo 25 March 2005
- Labour Party Conference demo 11 February 2005
- BBC iCan: Fathers’ rights 12 July 2004