Thursday, June 18, 2009

FATHERS 4 JUSTICE: Protest over family courts

8:29pm Thursday 18th June 2009

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TWO protesters dressed as a superhero and a court jester climbed Oxford’s Carfax Tower yesterday to campaign for fathers’ rights.

Shoppers and tourists looked on as the pair unfurled banners and shouted through a loud hailer.

The men, from campaign group New Fathers 4 Justice, began the protest at about 11am after climbing the tower’s 99 steps with costumes and banners in their backpacks.

Father-of-one Roger Crawford, dressed as the court jester, said: “We are protesting at the family court system, which we feel discriminates against non-resident fathers, those who don’t live with their children.

“Children are best raised by two parents, if possible, even if they don’t live together.”

The 60-year-old coach driver from Bedfordshire said he and his co-protester Peter Smith were prepared to stay up the tower all day, but ended the protest at about 2pm. They said they had been planning it for about a month.

He added: “We wanted it to coincide with Father’s Day. I liken it to a living bereavement. After 15 years, it is still as painful as it was.”

Mr Crawford, who twice protested outside Oxford County Court earlier this year, added that the protest had been authorised by the group’s leaders.

Carfax Tower, which dates from 1818, remained open to the public during the protest.

Mr Crawford said: “We were asked to get down because a party of schoolchildren was due. We were told we would be arrested otherwise.”

Father-of-two Mr Smith, 33, of Bristol, who was dressed as the Incredible Hulk, said: “I just believe in the cause. I think fathers should have the right to see their children.

“We had a few waves from people below.”

The unemployed lorry driver added: “We picked Carfax because it is central, high and a focal point. It all went according to plan.”

Passer-by Vicki Hathaway, 20, of Sandhills, said: “Fair play to them. I think they have a point.”

Oxford University student Chris Menelaou, 21, said: “I have heard of the group, but don’t really have an opinion.”

The original Fathers 4 Justice disbanded in 2008 and New Fathers 4 Justice took its place.

Thames Valley Police spokesman Vicky Brandon said: “We were called to Carfax Tower at 11.45am. A lawful and peaceful protest took place, no arrests were made and the protesters left at around 1.50pm.”

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