Fathers 4 Justice is a UK father’ rights organization best known for it superhero protests. The group’s latest protests are back in the news again. However, what supporters of Fathers 4 Justice are not saying is that the group has had serious internal problems. Fathers 4 Justice has a long history of harassing and intimating conduct.
Fathers 4 Justice imploded in June, 2005. Founder Matt O’Conner had written the following in a letter circulating fathers’ rights mailing lists:
For the last 6 months F4J Head Office has not been running a campaign. Instead we have been engaged in a senseless running battle with errant co-ordinators and members who have increasingly displayed flagrant disregard for the rules, regulations and agreements they signed up to and the authority of the organisation.
Theft and deception at branch level has become endemic, violence has been visited by member on member, anarchy and mob rule has replaced order, self destruction has replaced construction, disrespect has replaced respect for our aims, objectives, methods and strategy.
We have been consumed by a culture of poison and malice where gossip and half truths are peddled as fact and where infiltrators and agitators operate with impunity and without challenge.
Worse there are those who promote the patronising deceit that they only seek to relieve our burden and help F4J whilst at the same time ripping up the agreements they signed and were bound by and then conspiring to work against us by failing to attend meetings they agreed to attend, issuing demands, failing to supply information when asked and betraying confidences and loyalties.
The inevitable conclusion of this unedifying, embarrassing and increasingly dysfunctional spectacle must thrill and delight the enemies we sought to defeat. The disaffected instead of maintaining some kind of dignity in retreat email hundreds of members causing loss of faith and confidence and leave open festering wounds in the entire fathers movement where the tabloids and authorities, who also seek to bring us down, can feed.
It’s no surprise that Fathers 4 Justice imploded in such a public manner. The behavior of these men towards their own shows how harassing and intimidating they really are. If these men cannot even get along with each other, how can they possibly organize enough to the point of being effective? They crave media attention with their publicity stunts, which continue to this day, but they have not been effective in seeing their agenda accepted by the UK government. In particular, their drive to see presumptive 50/50 joint custody made into law has been rejected twice by the UK government. Presumptive 50/50 joint custody is one of Fathers 4 Justice’s main goals.
Members of Fathers 4 Justice chapters continued their bickering and infighting after the group imploded. Several chapters removed their web sites from the Internet. The group Alienated Fathers published this missive on its web site shortly before shutting it down.
Most links to F4J articles and their websites have been removed. I have felt this necessary as I cannot, in clear conscience, further support their efforts via this website and thus condone elements of their conduct brought to my attention, especially considering the unpleasant and distasteful responses of Matt O’Connor (F4J Founder) and Paul Watson (F4J Northeast) to my complaints and that of my wife regarding such conduct and the uncalled for, immature and provocative profanity I have read in response to members of other Fathers Rights groups who have questioned their methods. I personally do not approve of F4J’s recent attack on Tony Blair nor the unacceptable conduct reported after demonstrations and feel such conduct portrays Fathers nationwide in a particularly bad light, which opposing organisations would have a field day with. As a representing body of Fathers nationwide I feel F4J have an obligation, as all such organisations do, to exercise common sense and make every effort to ensure they represent Fathers as responsible, respectable, decent, mature and upstanding citizens and not tar us all with the same tacky label of aggresive, immature and irresponsible louts.
Two Fathers 4 Justice members had been expelled from the group for criticizing the behavior of Fathers 4 Justice member Jason Hatch, who dressed as Batman and scaled Buckingham Palace. Hatch claimed that the fathers’ rights campaign had “fallen apart at the seams” as far back as February, 2005. Hatch, and his Fathers 4 Justice co-hort David “Robin” Pyke, had been expelled from Fathers 4 Justice after they had been accused of duping a pensioner out of £500.
Dave Chick, a Fathers 4 Justice member who had dressed as Spider-man, had criticized Fathers 4 Justice founder Matt O’Connor. Chick has been ousted from Fathers 4 Justice during the implosion. He wrote the following to O’Connor in a widely-circulated mailing list post:
You use, abuse, and ignore countless decent people who have made f4j what it is (although you really are losing the plot of late). Your slagging off of Graham Manson, particularly the bit about him not having any children of his own, shows you to be a very sick man as well as the above mentioned. You did good early days but now you are just a liability causing more damage than good, its time for you to hand the reigns over to someone who can remain focused on the job in hand, rather than you drag the whole fathers / children‚s rights movement back to where it was before f4j began. Where is all the money going? Hhow much of it have you wasted on alcohol and other things for yourself? What did you do with the thousands I gave to f4j and what did you do with the 5 figure donation in 2003. On top of that you showed up at the last day of my trial pissed – do the right thing, better late than never and move aside.
This kind of behavior is not unexpected. In fact, back in January, there have been reports that militant fathers’ rights activists, including Fathers 4 Justice, have been intimidating court staff over the past twelve months, according to the probation officer’s union. A news report from The Guardian said that “[a] dossier compiled by the union, Napo, claims that the names of court staff have been published on websites, threats have been made against their homes, and their offices have been daubed with paint and super-glue put on locks. The dossier, which was sent last night to Margaret Hodge, the children’s minister, also includes details of incidents in which a banner was unfurled on a court building denouncing the staff who worked there as “child abusers”. Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said the dossier showed that the number of incidents had escalated in the past 12 months.”
A militant fathers’ rights activist had handcuffed himself to Margaret Hodge in a form of protest for about thirty minutes. Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has refused to meet with members of Fathers4Justice because of their intimidation tactics. She told MPs: “As long as they throw condoms with purple powder and send a double-decker bus outside my house in the West Country there is no point. They are not going to talk, they are going to tell me.”
Butler-Sloss was also critical of the time a Fathers 4 Justice activist pelted PM Tony Blair with a condom full of purple powder. This was done during an anthrax scare, and panic had ensued. She said their protests were “not sensible” and “could not lead to a constructive dialogue between aggrieved parents fighting for access to their children and the legal system.” She also said that “I cannot meet Fathers 4 Justice because they are not being sensible.”
It should not come as a surprise that the same abusive behavior these men have displayed towards government officials is the same behavior they have displayed towards their ex-partners. The following excerpt is from the article The Coming UK Coup. Bold text was in the original article.
Solicitors representing women whose ex-partners are members of Fathers4Justice claim they have been sent abusive e-mails, had their offices vandalised and stormed by protesters and have even been targeted at home.
In an even more sinister development, scores of family law solicitors specialising in children’s issues were sent hoax letter bombs last autumn. Similar hoaxes – made of marzipan with wires attached to it – were also sent to offices of the Child and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), which deals with custody issues.
These men’s ex-partners can’t talk to the press because they cannot reveal their children’s real names. However, they did speak once to a reporter, and made the following illuminating statements:
When details do emerge, it becomes obvious that in many cases, the circumstances are not as clear cut as F4J often portrays them. [F4J founder Matt O’Conner’s] former wife Sophie has said – and he has since admitted – that he had affairs, drank heavily and failed to keep to the initial arrangements for access to their children. Another F4J member, Conrad Campbell, told how he was jailed last year for texting his son on his birthday. But he had been sent on an anger management programme for attacking his former partner, and was under a court injunction.
Lawyers who act for the women also tend to refuse media requests for interviews.
Some outspoken solicitors have experienced the more intimidating tactics of the pressure group. The buildings of the Parker Bird law firm in Huddersfield were stormed this year by more than 15 members of F4J, who graffitied the walls. They presented Karen Woodhead, the head of family law, with a golden petrol can, which they claimed represented her firm “pouring petrol on the flames in divorce and childcare cases”.
Last summer, David Burrows, who was head of the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA), was ambushed by a protest outside his home. Kim Beatson, who chairs the SFLA, said: “They claim they are non-violent but they are becoming increasingly militant.”
Despite articles that say the group is only protesting what it believes is bias against fathers in UK courts, Fathers 4 Justice has a documented history of harassing and intimidating tactics. These men, and the women in the group who support them, do not represent good dads. Good dads who are having trouble with their cases are better off avoiding organizations that have displayed such destructive behavior. They are better off avoiding organizations that feed on their anger and give bad advice.
Ed:LisaMPowered by Sidelines