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  • Dads vow to storm courts
  • Sunday Sun (UK)
  • 07/12/2003 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 75 articles in 2003 )
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Controversial pressure group Fathers 4 Justice are planning to raid family law courts across the region in their on-going battle to change child access laws.

They claim the justice system is failing to enforce its own rules when one ex-partner refuses to allow the other the right to see their children.

The group, which says it represents both dads and mums, plans to send members dressed up as Santas singing carols into courts across the North East to disrupt family court proceedings.

Similar stunts, one involving a campaigner dressed in a Spiderman outfit and another involving two men in Batman and Robin costumes, have caused traffic chaos and cost millions of pounds.

Spokesman Paul Watson said: "For many dads this Christmas will be full of heartbreak because they can't see their children. This is all down to the injustice against dads which is hidden behind our secret family court system.

"This is a form of emotional and psychological child abuse. Fathers 4 Justice doesn't respect the justice system anymore.

"As far as we're concerned it's open season on anyone involved in these discriminatory courts, including lawyers, judges and other officials involved in splitting up dads from their children."

The pressure group will take comfort from a move this week demanding the resignation of the entire board of an official child protection agency.

The Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service was set up two years ago to protect and advise on the rights of children during court proceedings.

But now the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, is calling on the entire board to stand down after a report highlighted "serious failings" in the way the service is run.

However, only a radical shake-up of the current system would appease Fathers 4 Justice, who have resorted to publicity-grabbing demonstrations to highlight the plight of estranged dads.

Last year there were 160,000 divorces and around 50,000 enforcement orders made by courts in England and Wales, about half of which were ignored by ex-partners who have custody.

According to Fathers 4 Justice, 100 men lose regular contact with their children every day.

The group claims to be the UK's fastest-growing organisation with more than 6000 members. Last week around 30 despairing dads and mothers attended the first North East branch meeting in Newcastle.

A North serving police officer and father of two young boys was among them. He claimed his ex-wife was often violent towards him during their marriage and that, following their divorce two years ago, had prevented him from seeing his children.

He believes the current system operated by the Child Support Agency encourages women to deny fathers access.

He explained: "If you have the children a couple of days a week the money for their upkeep for those days isn't given to the mother. That means the less you see your children the more money the women get, so it's in her interest to stop you seeing the children."

He also alleges his former spouse has made over 25 false allegations of harassment that have resulted in his own police colleagues arresting him three times.

"The last time I was arrested I was actually at her house for contact as ordered by the court," he said.

"I believe she makes these false allegations because she knows nothing will happen to her.

"All I want is to see my children grow up but I'm being denied their most important years by my wife and the court system."

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