The pain of seperation

21 June 2004

FATHERS 4 Justice - which hit the headlines following the 'purple powder' attack on Tony Blair - aims to highlight what they regard as inequalities within Family Law, which can dramatically reduce the level of contact a father can have with his children.

Russell Leecocke, co-ordinator of F4J in Northern Ireland, is working to draw attention to the plight of fathers who have limited access to their children.

"I became involved with Fathers 4 Justice through my own painful experience of separation," said Russell.

"I am currently awaiting a date for a hearing, in an attempt to gain reasonable access to my own, beautiful three-year-old son.

"Fathers 4 Justice has been a tremendous help to me since I became a member.

"I have received expert legal and emotional support.

"For some dads, the contact granted by the Family Courts prevents them from seeing their children, talking to their children, or even buying them presents.

"The protests we have seen highlight this is a problem that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

"Some of the fathers who have sought help from the group are in the depths of despair.

"It is truly shocking when someone is suicidal as a result of not being able to see their own child.

"For a child to be denied contact with fathers, mothers or grandparents is an obscenity, and a social catastrophe waiting to happen."

He is also keen to stress that the involvement of female members of the group is vital to its campaign.

"We have a 'purple hearts' wing of the group, which consists solely of females.

"The Fathers 4 Justice organisation is made up of men and women from all walks of life - barristers, doctors, pilots, civil servants - who feel that existing Family Law is extremely unfair.

"The campaign is a worldwide operation - we have affiliated groups in England, Australia and America."

The recent attack on Tony Blair has catapulted F4J onto the world stage, and Russell believes the protest was entirely legitimate.

Two members of the group breached tight security measures in the House of Commons, before hurling powder from the gallery during Prime Minister's question time.

The powder struck the PM on the back, before the session was suspended.

"What happened to Tony Blair illustrates how serious we are about the rights of children to see both parents," said Russell.

"I must stress, however, we are opposed to violence of any kind. F4J is a peaceful organisation."

Russell is now working tirelessly to galvanise support from leading figures across the political divide in Northern Ireland, as the campaign gathers pace.

"We have now received backing from members of the Alliance Party, Sinn Fein, the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP.

"The majority of the politicians we have approached are parents themselves, and they have expressed genuine sympathy for our cause."

Even veteran rocker and fundraiser, Bob Geldof, has backed the campaign, commenting: "As long as the Fathers 4 Justice crowd stay funny and within the law, then they have my full support."

Russell Leecocke can be contacted by email: russ_northernireland_f4j@yahoo.co.uk or log on to: www.Fathers-4-Justice.org