Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK

Custody order is 'vital victory'
Mother and father
The couple was involved a bitter legal dispute
A father has been granted custody of his two daughters after their mother flouted contact orders for four years.

Mrs Justice Bracewell transferred the girls' residence to their father after the mother refused him contact, despite up to 17 court orders.

Campaigners who argue fathers are often overlooked in such cases have heralded the decision as a "vital victory".

The group Fathers 4 Justice said more judges should take a similar stance when faced with resistant parents.

Decision welcomed

The founder of the group, which claimed responsibility for a flour bomb attack on Tony Blair in the Commons in May, welcomed the decision, but added more needs to be done.

Matt O'Connor said: "The transfer of residence is a very simply and easy alternative for judges to adopt in such circumstances. But, sadly, it is still rarely done."

The group says there should be a mandatory direction issued to all judges in the Family Division that a transfer of residence when a parent constantly flouts court orders.

The ruling to award custody to the father - known only as "V" - was made in May in the Family Division but the ruling has only just been made available.

The couple divorced last year. The father was denied all access to the girls, now seven and nine years old, the court heard.

Since the couple separated there were 17 courts orders and directions and 16 judges, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Mrs Justice Bracewell, the senior High Court judge who presided over the case, warned there was a public perception courts routinely "rubber-stamp cases" by awarding custody to mothers while marginalising fathers.