'Catwoman' Joins Child Access Protest

Mon 2 Aug 2004 3:02pm (UK)

By Sarah Cade, PA News

Catwoman today joined campaigners from Fathers 4 Justice in a series of protests across the country to fight for equal access to their children.

Dressed as comic strip heroes, two campaigners climbed Northgate House in Gloucester, which houses the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

Batman and Catwoman say they have enough food and drink to continue their roof-top protest for a few days.

Their action is part of an international protest by the group, which has promised to cause “a summer of disruption”.

Events up and down the country today involved chaining, padlocking, superglueing and bricking-up doors to family court buildings and Cafcass buildings.

National coordinator Jason Hatch claimed Fathers 4 Justice campaigners had chained up court buildings in 52 towns and cities in the UK, including Bristol, Manchester, Hereford, Gloucester, Derby and Birmingham.

He said four protesters had scaled two cranes in Liverpool, where a new family court is being built.

Mr Hatch added that seven courts had also been locked up in Germany, and action was taking place in Canada, America and Australia.

“The lock out aims to deny judges access to court rooms in the same way as we have been denied access to our children,” Mr Hatch said.

A spokesman from the Department of Constitutional affairs confirmed that nine county courts had been affected but reports of disruption were coming in “all the time”.

He said: “Events have followed a similar pattern in England and Wales. Glue has been applied to locks and chains have been used to prevent staff from entering. In some case Fathers 4 Justice stickers have been plastered on buildings.”

The spokesman said he was not aware of any court business being affected by the protests but admitted some staff had been disrupted.

He confirmed courts in Cardiff, Swansea, Gloucester, Chester, Romford, Leicester, Brentford, Ilford and Edmonton had been affected.

Gloucestershire Police said they were monitoring the protest at the Cafcass building in London Road.

A spokeswoman said: “Chains placed outside the building have been cut and negotiators are liaising with campaigners.”

Andrea Hall, 43, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, said she dressed as Catwoman and climbed the building at 5.30am this morning with her partner Martyn Blackwell, who was dressed as Batman.

Speaking from the roof she said: “I am here to support my partner. He is a good father and it is wrong he can’t see his children as much as he wants.

“The current system of family law is wrong and unfair. It is in favour of mothers and needs to be changed.”

Mr Blackwell, 53, who has six children, said the protest followed the Government Green Paper outlining proposals to improve access arrangements for children whose parents split up.

He said the latest proposals did not give fathers equal rights.

“The Government has failed to take on board our views, there is nothing new in the Green Paper, there is nothing about equality for parents.

“Equal rights is the basis of our campaign and I am prepared to stay up here as long as it takes for the Government to listen.”

The group, who attacked the Prime Minister with a purple flour-filled condom in the House of Commons, has produced a blueprint for family law outlining proposals to change what it sees as a failing system.