Fathers 4 Justice was founded in the UK by Matt O'Connor, a marketing consultant and father. Following separation from his wife in 2000, O'Connor became a prominent critic of UK family law after a court barred him from seeing his young sons outside of a contact centre. Stunts have included supporters storming courts dressed in Father Christmas outfits, clapping the Government's ‘Children’s Minister’ in handcuffs, and most notably group member Jason Hatch climbing onto Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman. They have also protested by handcuffing two government ministers.
Fathers 4 Justice founded branches in the Netherlands and Canada in 2004, and in the USA and Italy during 2005, and in Germany during December 2006. On 19 February 2009 Jamil Jabr, president of F4J and Families 4 Justice USA, resigned. Fathers 4 Justice Directors unanimously voted long-time member and activist Donald Tenn to the position of President and Secretary. The Greek Professor Nicolas Spitalas formed the Fathers 4 Justice in Greece who between 2004 and 2009 provoked many activities and demonstrations in Greece.
Aims and purpose of Group: Fathers 4 Justice stated aim is to champion the cause of equal parenting, family law reform and equal contact for divorced parents with children. It is well-known for its campaigning techniques of dramatic protest stunts, usually dressed as comic book superheroes and frequently scaling public buildings, bridges and monuments. There are two key stated aims of the movement. The first is that something should be done "to enforce the will of Parliament", i. e. enforce existing law, with respect to father's rights.
The relevant Act of Parliament is The Children Act of 1989 which states that the welfare of a child [with divorced parents] is paramount and that the welfare "is best served by maintaining as a good relationship with both parents as possible". The Fathers 4 Justice group says that in practice children of divorced parents often live with their mothers and often lose contact with their father.
Although courts can make contact orders that oblige the resident parent to provide the other parent with time to spend with their hildren, these orders are often broken and according to the group, public officials often ignore these instances. It is this point which ignores the will of parliament, it says. The second aim is to extend existing law to establish a "legal presumption of contact" between children and parents and grandchildren and grandparents. F4J says it plans to publish a "Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century" with further specific proposals. The Methods that the group employs: The group has used direct but non-violent means to try to further its cause.
Since it’s founding in 2003 the group has used steadily more high-profile actions and in the process gathered media coverage, usually whilst wearing superhero costumes. It can be said that the campaign has been successful in so far that it raised the profile of the issue to the extent that the Queen's speech of November 2004 outlined legislative changes in the area of father's rights; however, critics have said that their actions are juvenile and even that some F4J members should be considered incapable of looking after their children.
One of the group's first campaigns involved demonstrating outside family court judges' houses in order to draw attention to the cause of its members. A subsequent demonstration involved members dressing as Easter Bunnies and congregating on the lawn of a hotel owned by a family court judge in Somerset in 2003. Another demonstration involved two bus loads of fathers dressed as Father Christmas descending on the family court's offices in London. One act of civil disobedience involved painting the entrances of the offices of CAFCASS purple.
The colour is a frequent motif within the campaign as it was widely used by the Suffragettes with whom the group says it identifies. It also says it is the international colour of equality. In less savoury and perhaps less non-violent protests, include harassing a woman outside a family court, in 2003, and harassing a solicitor at his place of work, for actions deemed inappropriate by the group. Failures of the group: The failures that Fathers 4 Justice has encountered are that the Members of the group are alleged to have conducted intimidating attacks in order to upset court staff and family lawyers.
These attacks include throwing purple paint - the group's colour - on the outside of CAFCASS buildings, pushing rotten meat or fish through letterboxes, sending fake bombs, hate mail and verbal abuse. Fathers 4 Justice has admitted to incidents involving CAFCASS property but deny harassing individuals. During protests outside CAFCASS offices, individual case workers were identified by name in a similar style to animal rights protesters. One office was invaded by F4J members and detained an unnamed employee; however, no criminal proceedings are known to have resulted.
The Successes of the Group: In 2006, the Court of Appeal set a precedent allowing adults to discuss secret cases after they had finished. This resulted in a number of high-profile scandals, chiefly concerning adoption. In February 2009, Justice Minister Jack Straw announced plans to reverse this ruling. A significant, unintended result of the F4J campaign has been the exposure of flaws in security at high-profile British institutions, resulting in security enquiries or reviews at Buckingham Palace and the House of Commons.
Do you think your group is promotional, sectional, insider, outsider, or a combination of these? Explain why. ‘ I think Fathers 4 Justice is a Promotional and sectional pressure group. It is promotional because they aim to promote a particular cause, just as Fathers 4 Justice aims to promote the chance of equal parenting, family law reform and equal contact for divorced parents with children. They tend to have a great deal of influence, and Fathers 4 Justice, does have a big impact with the extreme campaigns that they do.
Fathers 4 Justice are also a sectional pressure group. Sectional pressure groups seek to represent the common interests of a particular section of society. As a result, members of sectional pressure groups are directly and personally concerned with the outcome of the campaign fought by the group because they usually stand to gain professionally and/or economically. In Fathers 4 Justice, they represent the common interests of fathers in society.