Court roof duo battle for access

Thursday 8 July 2004

TWO men dressed as superheroes protested on the roof of Worcester Crown Court as part of an "escalating" campaign for divorced fathers' rights.

The duo, dressed as Batman and Spiderman, used ladders to climb the 60ft building at around 1.30am yesterday morning and remained there throughout the day - finally coming down at 10.30pm.

The protest was staged by Fathers-4-Justice and the "superheroes" were believed to be Terry Hunt, the group's Worcestershire co-ordinator, and an Andy James, from Newport.

Police arrested both men and later charged them with aggravated trespass.

They had attached a banner to the roof of the court, in Foregate Street, which read: "Superhero Fathers-4-Justice fighting for your rights to see your kids".

Campaigners on the ground, wearing T-shirts proclaiming "Justice is Coming", asked the public to sign petitions and encouraged drivers to sound their horns in support.

The group is fighting to change the law so that access to children is split 50-50 between mothers and fathers at the point of divorce or separation.

"We are driving our message to the heart of the problem and we have made it quite clear that we are going to raise the stakes," said Martyn Blackwell, a front-line campaigner outside the court.

"This isn't so much about publicity and getting people to take notice. This is intended to disrupt the courts.

"They have disrupted our access to our children and we will disrupt the access to their court buildings."

He added that court buildings, social services and CAFCASS - the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services - were now "legitimate targets" for the campaign.

Police had already arrested two other men from the pressure group as they tried to climb onto the roof at around 1.30am yesterday morning.

They were released without charge and bailed to return to Worcester police station.

"The extent of the campaign will unfold as the summer goes on," warned Mr Blackwell.

Janet Lloyd, manager of Worcester Crown Court, insisted the group had not disrupted any cases, which were "running as normal".

In April, three Fathers-4-Justice campaigners, also dressed as superheroes, staged a six-hour protest on the roof of Worcester Crown Court.

`Good luck to them'

FATHERS-4-Justice's stunt in Worcester yesterday appears to have earned them some admirers.

Within an hour of hearing that the group had begun protesting at Worcester Crown Court yesterday, 38-year-old Michael Orford travelled from Bromsgrove to support them.

He claimed he has not seen his six-year-old son since he was just nine-and-a-half months old, and Mr Orford claims conventional legal methods have failed him.

"I've been to court nine times over access and I've tried everything I can think of but with no joy," he said.

"I'm keen to join the group to see if they can help me."

Passers-by could not fail to notice the "superheroes" on the roof and banners attached to the building, and the majority seemed to sympathise with the campaign.

"It's OK. It's a peaceful protest and if the legal system is letting them down, and this helps them change it, good luck to them," said 28-year-old Ranj Chohan.

Dave Wright, aged 35, said he felt they had a right to demonstrate their opinion.

"Fair play to them. It's a peaceful protest and it looks like it's going well," he said.

Gaynor Wild said there was no problem with protesting but she had reservations about the method Fathers-4-Justice had employed.

"It's a free country and I'm all for protesting - as long as it stays peaceful - but if it causes disruption to the legal system it's a problem," she said.

"I'd be pretty annoyed if I had a case that was stopped because of them. Why should their issues be more important than other people's?"

However, Rebecca Orme felt it was a powerful way to get the message across.

"Before they started things like this I didn't know who they were," the 24-year-old said. "It certainly raises awareness.