Monday, September 08, 2008

F4J to carry on?

Over the weekend Divorce Survivor asked whether it was correct that fathers' rights group Fathers 4 Justice is to close. Well, I'm not sure, but things may have become a little clearer today. This article in the Sun confirms that founder Matt O'Connor is leaving, but this article in the Plymouth Evening Herald indicates that co-founder Jolly Stanesby has no intention of closing the group down.

As far as I can see, there is no confirmation as yet on the group's website as to what exactly is going on.

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UPDATE: I now have it on good authority that F4J is closing down, in its present form - see the comments to this post.

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FURTHER UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who points out that "key members" of Fathers 4 Justice are starting a new organisation that will be called New Fathers 4 Justice.


  1. They claimed to be closing down after the Leo Blair plot came to light, but O'Connor later said that the announcement had been a deliberate tactic to take the heat off them. I don't think F4J are as dangerous as we might like to think - their publicity is wholly disproportionate to their size or their platform, but they don't engender sympathy or engagement with the public so far as I can see. They come across as very damaged and obsessed people, which (rightly or wrongly) always makes one think ill of the person rather than what they've suffered. Coupled with no concrete proposals of how it 'should' work, they're pretty useless.

    There probably is legitimate campaigning that can be done on family justice; it is true that often a parent with residence can frustrate contact with the other parent by sheer bloody-mindedness. Perhaps our current system is, to misuse a quotation, the worst system we can have apart from all the other possibilities.

    My experience of family law professionally seems to bend towards one single focus: there just aren't enough contact centres - especially closely supervised ones. Sort that out and you're halfway there. But no-one will make it happen by dressing as Batman.

    Anyway, don't know where that off-specialism ramble came from. Back to employment law...

  2. Excellent - I wish I could speak so eloquently on employment matters!

    Yes, I remember the Leo Blair plot and subsequent 'closure' of F4J. You may have a point about the public's perception of F4J, but I think they would disagree with you about having no concrete proposals - they do have a 'blueprint', which contains some interesting stuff.

    I don't think that more contact centres would be a panacea, but they would certainly help.

  3. Hi John,

    Yes, it is true that Matt is closing down Fathers 4 Justice in its present form. The campaign has outlived its sell-by date and isn’t achieving anything useful by limping on.

    What isn’t true is just about everything the Sun reports today; I’m not sure that one should regard it as a reliable source of news.

    As Usefully Employed points out, F4J was never very large, nor very dangerous (and never tried to be), and used to punch, in publicity terms, well above its weight. It is also true that it was brought down by the damaged and obsessed, and that far too much time was spent trying to deal with their squabbles rather than on constructive campaigning.

    There were, actually concrete proposals for reform, published as the Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century. Written in 2003 (before my time) it is now very out of date and needs re-writing. It did, however, show how a holistic family justice system, closely integrated with child support, could work effectively, and save a great deal of money in the process. A huge amount of thought went into it. I doubt very much that piece-meal reform can ever be effective.

    The campaign will continue, under a different name, a different banner and different management, but with broadly similar objectives. There is still a substantial core of people prepared to take this forward. No doubt there will also be a few splinter groups.

    I would take issue with contact centres: they give a child the message that their father is in some way a threat to them, and they are terrible, dank, soulless places, and quite unsuited to trying to restore proper parent/child relationships. They exploit scarce resources to little benefit. Fathers who refuse to use them have often been successful in getting contact restored, though I admit it is a risky strategy.

    As for the ‘Leo Blair plot’, wasn’t that also first reported in the Sun?

  4. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for clarifying the position.

    I agree with your comments about the Sun. I don't normally refer to it, but could find no other source.

    I note what you say about contact centres. I certainly think that, in most cases, they should be viewed as a very temporary arrangement, to get contact going and, hopefully, re-establish trust between the parents. There does seem to be a shortage of places available at centres, which obviously isn't helpful.

  5. John,

    "there's no such thing as bad publicity"

    Whilst in some cases one can call into question the motives of the people involved, there can be little doubt that the publicity they have created has brought some of the injustices of the current system to the public's attention.

    If changes in public opinion follow - as seems to have been the case - then the law will eventually have to catch up. I would argue that a rebuttable presumption of shared residence will not only help non-resident parents (usually fathers) who are being prevented from playing a full role in their childrens lives by the resident parent (usually mothers) but could also help those mothers who complain about the non-involvement of the children's father, by making society's expectation of his role clear.

    Would the public be as aware of the current injustices without the actions of F4J?
    I'm not a member (nor, frankly, an admirer of any of the individuals involved), but that doesn't stop me from appreciating what they have done, and applauding them for it.


  6. Thanks, STH. I'm not entirely sure that there's no such thing as bad publicity (Heather Mills comes to mind), but the protests have certainly brought their grievances to the public's attention. The opinion of certain sections of the public may have been altered in their favour, although others may have been put off by their antics.

  7. Hmmmm, I wonder how much Heather Mills charges for personal appearances now!



  8. Does anyone want her to appear with them? :-)

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  10. To STH "a rebuttable presumption of shared residence"

    I am against law to enforce equality in the family courts, however that is the prettiest frame I have seen to date.

    Do you not think that the real equality issue in the courts is the Judiciary that has 55 years to go before they achieve gender equality, certainly from my limited experience, I met about 10 Judges ALL MALE and had one female Judge entered the equation I KNOW that my children would have been better served.

  11. I think that a rebuttable presumption of shared residence is eminently reasonable and moves the debate on from the rebuttable presumption of contact which was the position some years ago.

    It also seems to be the ‘state of the art’ in the Court of Appeal, which ruled in Re P [2006] 1 FCR 309,

    "Good reasons are required if a shared residence order is not to be made. Such an order emphasises the fact that both parents are equal in the eyes of the law, and that they have equal duties and responsibilities as parents. The order can have the additional value of conveying the court’s message that neither party is in control and that the court expects parents to cooperate with each other for the benefit of the children."

    One can only hope that this sort of thinking will filter down to the lower courts. Anything less than this is an imposition of inequality and I don't see how that can any longer be justified

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  13. I don't mind, so long as things are kept civil. I'm just sitting back and watching! ;-)

  14. The damage caused by Matt's inconsistent F4J protesting has destroyed a very strong and focused movement in the UK. It is a sad truth that all these disbanding publicity stunts only serve to raise Mr O'connors press count, and add insult to injury for the members who hope in desperation for some unification and positive campaigning.

    I know Nick L, believes he is doing an honourable job, backing up Matts failings, but if he is honest, he'll admit that F4J is a dead duck, and has dragged down what was a good campaign group.

    I was a founding member back when F4J first did the DCA open top bus Santa protest. I remember sitting in my Santa suite feeling as if finally my silent, lonely struggle against the gagging Family Courts was over. I campaigned with F4J through the heady heights of publicity and watched in anger as the feminist lead media (Fiona Bruce) Real Story set out to destroy the clearly worked, but really didn't need to bother, as it was destroying itself from the top down.

    Regardless of what Matt and F4J are doing, I just wish he'd close the doors completely and hand over the logos, and copyrighted names to an open accountable parenting group who can benefit from a household name/brand and revive a much needed direct action campaign group.

    While Matt continues to disband, and re-open, he holds back the real fathers for justice from taking on this most worthy of civil liberty battles.

  15. John, Just seen this:


    Members of Fathers 4 Justice have discovered that the founder of Fathers 4 Justice has left the organisation. There has been an earlier press release from Matt o'connor that states that the organisation is being shut down. There are many members, however who wish to carry on the fight to see their children.

    As an emergency initiative, key members of Fathers 4 Justice are now organising a new structure that will be more free spirited than the old one.

    The new organisation will simply be called NEW Fathers 4 Justice. The elements of the protest will be the same, keeping the traditional superheroes and building, bridge protests. Dads will be encouraged to do their own protests and demos, using banners, superhero costumes,and loudhailers as their weapons. The new group will also adopt the tragic comedy, that belies the ethos of fathers 4 Justice.

    Spokesman for New Fathers 4 Justice , Nigel Ace, whom recently appeared on Harriet Harman's roof said " No one is bigger or better than the cause". "The fact that one person has left does not stop the problem that children and Dads face today and that is fatherlessness in society". "We thank Matt for raising awareness of the plight of Dads in the UK, but we shall build on this awareness and get action and change".

    We shall motivate every Dad in the country to get up and get protesting for what is their fundamental right...the right to see their kids" post divorce and separation.Mr. Ace is asking the Government for four points of reform.

    This is a message to the Government and judiciary.
    2.OPEN COURTS, to be brought in line with the crown and magistrates courts.
    4.ENFORCE COURT ORDERS. A 3 strikes and your're out policy would be a great detterent against uncooperative mothers. On the 3 rd strike , residence would be swopped to the father or whoever has deliberately broken the court order.

    There is being a new website being constructed at.

    contact either

    Nigel ace 07895088049

    richard adams 07875748807

    mark harris 07736369494

    Posted on:

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  18. I’m grateful to ‘Anonymous’ for his comments, though I do wish people could stop hiding behind anonymity and pseudonyms, it doesn’t give the campaign much credibility. I hope I’m honest and of course I accept that F4J has been a dead duck for quite some time – probably since the Leo Blair debacle. I have stuck with it and tried to give it my support for the simple reason that there hasn’t been any other credible organisation to support. I recognize that leaving F4J in place so long may have blocked the way for other groups with a greater chance of success, though I haven’t seen any evidence for such groups.
    It has been one of the features, and one of the tragedies, of fathers’ rights campaigning in this country that many of those involved have expended more energy fighting eachother, and doing what they can to damage any positive initiative, than they have working towards real reform. Many of course, as Usefully Employed said, are damaged or obsessed, and there is evidence for that on this thread; F4J was also particularly vulnerable to infiltration by journalists, agents provocateur and others.
    It is sadly the case that some of the splinter groups are more focussed on bashing Matt than on doing anything more constructive; whatever his faults he isn’t actually the cause of their problems, whatever his faults he has still done more than anyone else to ‘make the injustice visible’ and I do not accept many of the allegations made against him which are as false as anything encountered in the Family Courts. I do accept the campaign has been inconsistent.
    It is certainly time to move on with something new, if only people can start to learn how to work together; I don’t believe this disbanding is a publicity stunt, and no publicity has been sought for it, only the Sun picked up the story. I understand why Anonymous thinks we should stick with the name, but I think it has had its day; there are already too many copy-cat organisations and splinter groups calling themselves the Real or the New, not to mention Mothers, Babies or Families 4 Justice. It would be dishonest to call any new enterprise F4J because it wouldn’t be that, and could well cause yet more in-fighting and squabbling. Matt’s made it clear the name isn’t for sale or any sort of licensing so any discussion of retaining names or logos is a distraction and waste of time.
    Otherwise I agree with what Anonymous has said – any new organisation must be open and accountable to its members and must revive this much needed campaign. I have no idea if that will actually happen, or if our efforts will be brought down again, but we can at least make the effort. If Anonymous is who I think he is I hope he gets in touch.

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  20. I'm STH - this stands for Season Ticket Holder, which refers to the idea that I've been to Family Court so often that I now have a season ticket.

    I'm not Nick Langford - although I do wish I had his eruditeness. My reason for 'hiding' is that I am still going through the courts - next stop Court of Appeal. I'm not a political campaigner - I'm nothing more than a dad who wants to play a full role in the lives of his children.

    I've not joined F4J, as my time is taken up with my own children, but how else will the working of the law (as oposed to the Children Act itself) ever change unless the judges decisions reflect the views of society? The whole legal system is inherently conservative, and no matter what you think of individuals - or of their personal agendas - F4J has undoubtedly highlighted the fact that society as a whole now has a very different view of a father's role from that currently held by many judges.

    If you visit almost any single parent web site dealing with parental problems, you'll find women almost exclusively complaining about men who don't take their parental role seriously, and men almost exclusively complaining about women who exclude them from their child's life.

    Surely, "Odyssey" you don't have to be a genius to see that a rebuttable presumption of shared residence might perhaps go some little way towards making both genders aware of the fact that a child has two parents and not one?

    Perhaps Odyssey (or anyone, come to that) can explain to me how putting energy into F4J-bashing helps children?


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  23. No need to speculate any more about O'Connor and 'his' F4J.

    He is still there despite his denials, on the radio yesterday I believe? Nadine Taylor still making comments in newspapers under the title of F4J Campaign Coordinator?

    Looking at the posts this guy made on the forum recently, a forum which he has banned people from for bad language, It would appear he is completely unhinged and needs professional help.

    Decide for yourself.

    I am creating a blog, which is a time line of events leading up to his closure of F4J, but more importantly, the threats and bullying that came AFTER he had gone.

    The blog is mainly made up of emails, forum posts, text messages, media reports and clearly commented where necessary by me.

    I set it up after he tried to get in the way of progress, threatened me, removed me from the forum and then started lying about me.

    I am not the sort of person who cowers to his cowardly threats and think it's about time that proof of what this self publicising bully is really like is made available for others.

    You can check the blog out here:

    www.mattoconnorf4j.blogspot com


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