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Fathers look north.

Byline: By Dave Black

A fathers' support group which sparked a major security scare in the House of Commons says further high-profile and militant action is almost certain to spread to the North-East.

Two members of Fathers 4 Justice have been charged by police in connection with the purple flour bomb attack on Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

The incident led to the Government calling in MI5 to help tighten security at Westminster and raised the public profile of the national pressure group which is fighting for divorced fathers to be given equal access rights to their children.

Fathers 4 Justice has already staged a number of headline-grabbing stunts ( including one member dressed as Spider Man climbing a 50ft crane near Tower Bridge in London ( to highlight claims that 100 children are losing touch with their fathers every day.

North-East regional coordinator Paul Watson, of Durham, said further militant action and demonstrations were in the pipeline.

Mr Watson, 35, a divorcee who was involved in a bitter legal fight for access to his two young daughters, said: "There will be further militant action here in the North-East because fathers are queuing up to get involved ( and are prepared to go to jail ( because they have been left without hope by courts who say there is nothing they can do to help them.

"There will be a summer of discontent by Fathers 4 Justice and we now have 300 supporters in the North-East who have registered an interest in our aims.

"I am getting 30 to 40 phone calls a week about this issue because people are just so frustrated.

"Action will be spread across the country and we will be shutting down roads, occupying courts and doing whatever it takes to get our voice heard."

Fathers 4 Justice was set up in 2002 amid growing anger that the courts favour mothers in most cases involving access to children of divorced couples.

Mr Watson, a sports centre manager in County Durham, says he spent more than three years being denied access to his daughters and describes the experience as a nightmare.

He said: "What happened in the House of Commons this week has been years in the making because the Government is just paying lip service to the problem.

"People don't want to have to take extreme actions like this but feel they have to because they have been left with no hope.

"Does anyone really think it is more important to keep Tony Blair's jacket clean than protecting the rights of fathers to have contact with their children? The people who took this action didn't do so lightly. They are loving, caring fathers.

"People might say it was a step too far, but we have exhausted every other avenue.

"The lack of progress is made even worse when you see MPs putting down absolutely ridiculous motions in the Commons about the standards of refereeing in football."

Fathers 4 Justice says it is a civil rights movement campaigning for a child's right to see both parents and grandparents.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 22, 2004
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