Friday, November 19, 2004

Protester handcuffs MP

By Isabel Oakeshott, Evening Standard Last updated at 00:00am on 19.11.04

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Holy Hijack: Campaigner Jolly Stanesby, alias Robin

A protester handcuffed himself to Children's Minister Margaret Hodge today.

Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Jolly Stanesby locked himself to Mrs Hodge on a stage as she prepared to make a speech.

Mr Stanesby, a registered childminder who has protested before dressed as Robin, was accompanied by Jason Hatch, the man who scaled Buckingham Palace in a Batman outfit. The pair staged a mock arrest of the minister before they were arrested and dragged away.

Mrs Hodge was handcuffed to Mr Stanesby for 10 minutes. She was not harmed during the incident and later went on with her speech.

It is believed a third man tried to join them but was wrestled to the floor by lawyers sitting in the front row.

Mrs Hodge was preparing to give a speech at the Law Society Family Conference at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester.

During their protest, Mr Stanesby, 35, and Mr Hatch, 33, shouted: "This is making contact work" - a reference to their grievances about the lack of access fathers are granted by courts in divorce cases.

Fathers 4 Justice campaigns against what it sees as unfair discrimination against men in family courts.

A spokesman said today: "It was done to highlight the plight of fathers being denied access to their children this Christmas.

" One could argue we restrained a government minister from going about her normal business." Mr Stanesby, from Ivybridge in Devon had previously protested dressed as Robin on the roof of the High Court last year.

He was also among four demonstrators who brought traffic across London to a halt in February when he climbed onto a wall over the Blackwall Tunnel. Mr Hatch, from Gloucester, was at the centre of an unprecedented-royal security breach two months ago when he climbed the walls of Buckingham Palace and perched on a ledge.

The Department for Education said today: "The matter is being dealt with by the police and she is going ahead with her speech as planned."

Downing Street declined to comment on the incident.

Fathers 4 Justice has staged a series of increasingly militant and controversial protests in the last year, including a flour bomb attack on the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

This time last year, campaigner David Chick caused traffic gridlock in central London after climbing a 150ft crane dressed as Spiderman.

Mr Hatch from Cheltenham, has claimed he is fighting for equal access with ex-wife Victoria Jones to their son and daughter, now aged five and four.

A month after his Buckingham Palace demonstration, he was involved in a protest against the senior High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.

He was one of fifteen protesters to storm a National Council for Voluntary Organisations conference attended by Dame Butler-Sloss in Islington.

Fathers 4 Justice staged its first demonstration on 17 December, 2002 - a raid on the offices of the Lord Chancellor's Department by 200 Father Christmases.

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