Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tyne Bridge protest man vows to keep fighting

Simon Anderton, from Heaton, stayed on top of the Tyne Bridge for more than two days in a protest for Real Fathers for Justice

A FATHERS’ rights activist cleared of causing danger during a Tyne Bridge protest has vowed to carry on campaigning.

Simon Anderton, from Real Fathers For Justice, suspended a life-size, fully-clothed dummy from the girders during his one-man demonstration high above the river.

Prosecutors claimed the 50-year-old wanted to cause massive disruption by closing the bridge and that his suicide stunt with the mannequin risked the lives of motorists driving underneath.

But a Newcastle Crown Court jury took only 20 minutes to find Mr Anderton, from Heaton, Newcastle not guilty of attempting to cause a public nuisance.

They also cleared him on judge’s direction of causing a danger to road users by hanging the 12kg dummy on a rope.

After the verdicts Mr Anderton spoke both of his relief and determination to keep going as an activist against the family court system.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “It is a fantastic outcome. Both myself and the group feel very vindicated.

“My only aim was to highlight our cause in a peaceful way not to create disruption or upset anyone.

“Obviously we want the public behind us not against us and the support I received from people while I was on the bridge actually kept me up there longer.

“They were tooting their horns and even shouting my name. I can’t thank them – or the jury – enough.”

Mr Anderton, a grandad and father-of-five, began his protest at dawn on Father’s Day last year. He defied a serious heart condition to climb to the top of the bridge carrying the dummy he had made himself with metal and rubber tubing.

Mr Anderton hung the mannequin firstly from the centre of the bridge before agreeing to let a firefighter to move it to another spot over the footpath – closed by police who had taken a decision to allow traffic to keep flowing.

Hunger and tiredness finally drove him down more than 48 hours after starting his protest.

He then spent three days in police cells before being bailed on strict conditions, including a nightly curfew.

But after his two-day court hearing, Mr Anderton said: “I will definitely carry on campaigning.

“That is without a shadow of a doubt because the issues involved are too important.”

A spokesman for Real Fathers For Justice also welcomed the verdict.

Mike Kelly, who helped negotiate with police during the protest, said: “We feel Simon has been really supported by the people of the North East and a jury of 12 men and women have shown that this protest was acceptable.

“We would like to thank them and the public for the support they have shown.”

The jury had asked to be allowed to make a statement of their own when they returned their verdicts – an almost unprecedented move.

But Judge Christopher Prince said no statement was allowed and that it formed no part of the jury’s function.

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