Dads vow to keep up fight

Jessica Mangold,

Evening Gazette

Jul 23 2004

A Teesside dad has rubbished efforts to improve parental access to
youngsters following divorce, accusing ministers of being "more
interested if the children are Iraqi".

Father-of-two Paul Watson, 35, made the stinging criticisms,
following the release of the Government Green Paper Parental
Separation; Children's Needs and Parents Responsibilities.

A member of Fathers 4 Justice North East, Mr Watson has warned people
to expect further disruption from the activists, who last month
stormed Middlesbrough County Court.

"Children in the North-east have a hard enough life without the
foundations being torn away by a government more interested in
children if they are Iraqi," said Mr Watson.

"We are fighting for children's rights and we would like them to grow
up in an environment where they are guaranteed that no matter what
happens there will be a mum and a dad."

The paper sets out plans to speed up the court system, allowing
swifter appointments for parents denied access by a former partner.

Community sentences will also be imposed against those who continue
to flout court orders and conciliation between parents will also be
encouraged with mediators.

But Mr Watson said these moves do not go far enough.

"The Government thinks fathers are second class parents, but there
has to be a legal presumption of 50/50 parenting.

"We welcome anything that stimulates debate, but if a parent won't
accept a High Court order, how will they accept a mediator?"

For more than three years, Mr Watson lost all contact with his two
daughters, then aged nine and six years, after separating from his
wife in 1999.

The three were reunited again earlier this year.