Abbott to put shirt on political push
John Abbott, leader of the Blackshirts fathers' group, was given a four-month suspended sentence for stalking.
Last week the law caught up with John Abbott. The leader of the Blackshirts fathers' group was found guilty in the County Court of stalking, and given a four-month suspended jail sentence. It came two years after Abbott, 58, shocked the city by leading posses of masked men to protest outside the homes of often terrified women.
Smiling as he walked from the court, the most extreme figure in the men's movement vowed to continue his vigilante action, and to launch a new political party. Despite looming prison time if he breaks the law in the next 18 months, Abbott said: "I'm not deterred in the least. It only strengthens my resolve."
The new party, Southern Cross, will, he says, champion men's rights and stand candidates at future federal elections. As for the demonstrations, they will go on. Abbott still has the rack of black shirts he used to evoke fear, and will employ them to shame the women he blames for marriage break-ups.
As owner of the Dane Centre, a recording studio in Brunswick, he has the money to fund his campaigns. He says he has spent $100,000 fighting what he sees as Family Court bias towards women and will spend more. "The fight has only just begun," he insists.
It is perhaps not what State Attorney-General Rob Hulls had in mind when he branded the Blackshirts "gutless". Mr Hulls said the Government would ensure women were protected from the violence of hate campaigns. Abbott, however, is not chastened. For him, men parading in fascist costume outside selected women's homes amounts to a "crusade" to protect marriage, family and children.
Judge Leslie Ross warned him that the suspended sentence meant he was "walking on eggshells". As the judge left the courtroom, Abbott embraced his backers and said: "There, they can't have my body." He said he was not intimidated by the court process. "This isn't the end of the Blackshirts. Hell, no."
Abbott was found guilty of stalking a woman involved in a custody dispute with her ex-husband. He pleaded not guilty and argued that he had a democratic right to protest. The prosecution said he had harassed the woman with a leaflet referring to her by name and describing her as a "so-called mother". The judge said he accepted that Mr Abbott was driven by "genuine zeal", and had "overstepped the line". He said the garb and insignia worn by the Blackshirts was synonymous with oppression, violence and aggression, and could be a "frightening sight".
Abbott represented himself in court. He did not engage a lawyer because lawyers were reluctant to highlight political points in court, he said. "Barristers won't put forward the message," he said.
Abbott claims numerous supporters but, while mainstream men's organisations know of the Blackshirts, most do not support their methods. Sue Price, from the national Men's Right Agency, said protesting outside women's homes was "going too far".
Abbott's wife left him 14 years ago and met another man. Abbott has remained single, and says marriage is forever and adultery is akin to murder. He laments the loss of his two children - although he did not contest custody - and believes the family will be reunited in heaven. In court, Judge Ross noted that the insignia of the Blackshirts had religious overtones, and that Abbott was fond of talking of crusades.