The new dads army

by Kate Thompson

A Hampshire dad is arrested by police for throwing eggs at Downing Street. Picture by: Garry Clarkson.

MILITANT Hampshire fathers are planning covert military style missions targeting judges and court buildings, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Members have been told they are officially on a 'war footing' and actions are being stepped up.

The county's 400-strong Fathers 4 Justice group has threatened to bring Hampshire to a standstill by targeting airports, roads and ports.

The action is planned to publicise their fight to win equal rights to care for their children

The Daily Echo has been granted exclusive access to the workings of Fathers 4 Justice and can reveal the disgruntled dads are using military know-how when planning their acts of sabotage and disruption.

The group is committed to a twin-track strategy of publicity and pressure, combining non-violent direct action and civil disobedience with a strong political message and that will involve demonstrating outside the homes of judges who sit in the family court.

But Hampshire Co-ordinator Phil Osgood said more intense action could be taken in the future.

"Membership is growing all the time and, as the numbers grow, we are bound to attract more men who are willing to take a risk and take more action.

"Nobody from Fathers 4 Justice has been sent to prison yet but it's only a matter of time," he said.

He added all potential members were warned the group existed to carry out direct action. But today the police warned those tempted to get involved in illegal actions would end up before the courts.

A spokesman for Hampshire police said: "Our role is to uphold law and order and anyone who breaks the law will be arrested.

"We are more than happy to allow demonstrations so long as they are lawful - but if you break the law you can expect to be arrested."

Many local members have come from a military background and they plan each publicity grabbing act with stealth and logic.

"There's no point in being a member if you are not prepared to do something.

"We have a covert way of doing things - we don't tell anyone what we areup to, only the persons involved.

"When you join you are given a number between one to five - five being the number given to those who want to be most active activists. When we are planning something we put the call out to see who is interested.

"We have plans for the airports, ports and roads - and we are ready to act. It's a question of 'watch this space,'" he said.

In recent days the local Fathers 4 Justice group has attacked the Southampton Court building on the Avenue and the Cafcass office in Ocean Village.

They glued up doors and left stickers on the buildings as their calling card - and a wall sign at the Cafcass office was taken as a memento of the night time raid.

It is now being auctioned on eBay and bids of up to Ј150 have been made.

"We planned this operation carefully. We took photos inside and outside the buildings without anyone knowing and we knew all about the movements of security guards and how often the police would go past," said Mr Osgood.

"I had to resign in the end before I got the sack. I believe the action we are taking is necessary. Fathers have fewer rights than criminals or terrorists.

"I haven't worked since January. I have to get back to work to cover my debts but I am finding it difficult to concentrate with all this going on," he said.

Just last week he appeared at Bow Street Magistrates after he was arrested for throwing an egg - painted purple, the colour of equality.

He received a conditional discharge and fine but now he fears his actions will eventually lead to prison.

"I have always been a law-abiding citizen and I used to think the world of British justice.

"I have only ever had a caution in the past for helping a mate who was having problems with the CSA.

"But unless I am allowed to see my son on an equal basis I will carry on campaigning.

"I could end up in prison - I will do whatever it takes. I am fighting for fathers and so that others don't have to go through what I have," he said.

Recalling what it was like standing on top of the gantry, Mike said: "I got a lot of support. I was near the Chiswick flyover where the traffic is pretty slow anyway.

"People were tooting their horns, putting their thumbs up and waving.

"A couple of people shouted `Jump you idiot' but most were really supportive.

"I was up there from 8am to 3.30pm - the idea was to cause some sort of economic damage without causing too much inconvenience," he said.

The Hampshire Fathers 4 Justice group is growing in strength and now has about 400 members.

Last week they launched an attack on the Southampton court building and the offices of Cafcass - the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

The doors were sealed with superglue and expanding foam causing upset and disruption at both venues.

Southampton court manager Hilary Sibbald said: "We disapprove of anyone who disrupts court proceedings or the smooth running of the court building.

"This leads to delays with court cases and inconvenience to all parties. Going to court can be a difficult experience at the best of times without the impact of this sort of disruption."

More action is planned by the Hampshire group and there are also plans to start a monthly meeting for disgruntled dads in Southampton.

Hampshire co-ordinator Phil Osgood explained: "There is no point in being a member if you are not prepared to do something."