Friday, February 13, 2004

Fathers 4 Justice attack legal firm in UK

Dads' army in graffiti attack on legal firm

A PROTEST group attacked a Huddersfield law firm with graffiti as part of a national campaign for fathers' rights.

Yorkshire members of the Fathers 4 Justice group struck at the Queen Street offices of Parker Bird solicitors early today.

Patrolling detectives arrested four men on suspicion of criminal damage.

The four are a 49-year-old from Outlane, a Kirkheaton man of 28, a 36-year-old Lowerhouses man and a man aged 43 from Wakefield.

They were later released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Graffiti reading "Fathers 4 Justice", "F4J here to stay", "child thieves" and "parasites" was scrawled in large purple letters on the walls. Also, doors were daubed with purple paint.

Police are also investigating the possibility the same group attacked the offices of Cafcas in Hanover Street, Batley, last night.

The office is a court advisory and support service for children and families.

Purple paint was daubed on this building, too. Locks at Cafcas and Parker Bird were filled with a silicone sealant.

The Fathers 4 Justice group is carrying out a campaign of "widespread civil disobedience" to disrupt roads, railways and courts.

Its members are calling for a change in the family law system, which they say unfairly penalises fathers, particularly in child access cases.

Paul Midgley, Fathers 4 Justice's Yorkshire co-ordinator, said purple was used at Parker Bird because it was the international colour of equality.

He said the firm was targeted because Fathers 4 Justice feel it is unfair to fathers in family law cases.

Mr Midgley added: "Slogans were painted on the walls to warn the public of the threat the firm posed to family relationships before, during and after couples separate or divorce."

Karen Woodhead, head of family law at Parker Bird, said: "I think the fathers we act for will be rather surprised to see that an organisation like this has chosen this firm.

"Parker Bird represents all its clients to the best of our ability. If there are those who don't like that, we are not the firm for them."

She added: "We have a sensitive and carefully balanced system of law in this country and a mediation process to even prevent the need for court hearings.

"It is very sad that apparently there are some who feel they can bypass that system and believe that is in the best interests of their children."

Ms Woodhead thanked the police for their help in the incident.

The Huddersfield stunt was just one of many staged around the country by Fathers 4 Justice.

Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge was closed to traffic yesterday and part of this morning because three Fathers 4 Justice members dressed as Spiderman, Batman and Robin were protesting there. They were arrested this morning on suspicion of causing public nuisance.

The protest started yesterday morning with four members, but Superman left the bridge last night.

London's busy Blackwall Tunnel had its northbound entrance closed yesterday because of a protest and jams were caused on the A13, A2, M4 and A40 in London.

One protester today remained on a gantry above the westbound carriageway of the A13 in east London.

Last week, a Fathers 4 Justice member scaled the Tamar Bridge in Plymouth and stayed there for seven days.

A national spokesman for Fathers 4 Justice, Matt O'Connor, said his members were ready to go to jail in their campaign of peaceful protest.

"If you give a father no options, you leave him no choice," said Mr O'Connor. "Fatherhood is under attack in a way inconceivable 30 years ago.

"These injustices have to end and end now. A rising has begun. This is the beginning of a mobilisation of fathers, mothers and grandparents who are sickened by what is happening.

"Be under no illusion, there will be widespread civil disobedience and disruption across the country until this wretched law is removed."

* Fathers 4 Justice believe that fathers should have as much time with their sons and daughters as mothers do.

* The Yorkshire branch of the Fathers 4 Justice pressure group was formed last year, to campaign against what members see as an unfair court system that always favours mothers in access cases.

* Lobbyists have gained the support of Sir Bob Geldof, who himself was embroiled in an acrimonious split with Paula Yates and subsequent custody battle for their three daughters.

* Official statistics say that 40% of estranged fathers lose all contact with their children within two years of the split with the mother.

* Hundreds of Fathers 4 Justice campaigners, dressed in Santa Claus outfits, descended on central London in December to try to present a Government minister with a "Turkey of the Year" award. They were delivering the 6ft turkey to children's minister Margaret Hodge, who, they say, has failed to reform a flawed family law system.

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