On Friday evening I met a couple of guys in North Walsham who are members of Fathers for Justice. Their stories really moved me. They want nothing more than to be involved with the upbringing of their children, yet our legal system seems to be totally biased against them. Each of them are allowed 5 hours supervised access every month - not every week - every month. I told them that I could not condone some of the more extreme campaigning tactics used by F4J but it is clear to me that there is something deeply flawed in our child protection system if fathers like these are denied proper access to their children. The guiding light in any system of family law must be the welfare of the children. But no one is telling me that children are better off without the full involvement in their upbringing of their father. I don't doubt that there are many terrible circumstances where it is not possible to have two parents with equal access but that does not mean that we shouldn't look at reforming the law so the rights of access for fathers is strengthened. Here's a press release I have just issued. If you'd like to visit the F4J East Anglia website
IAIN Dale, North Norfolk's Conservative Parliamentary Candidate held talks this weekend with representatives of North Norfolk Fathers for Justice in North Walsham. He told them he endorsed calls by Conservatives nationally to review family law and give divorced parents greater rights of access to their children. Today divorce affects almost 150,000 children every year, more than two-thirds of whom are under the age of ten.
Iain Dale explained:
"When relationships break up, too many children become unfairly cut off from one of their parents, as well as grandparents and other close relatives. The current legal system isn't working, trapping many families for years in the courts running up massive legal bills."
Under the three-point plan to guide a review of family law by Conservatives:
· There should be a strong presumption in favour of equal rights for parents to have an influence on the upbringing of their children.
· Mediation should as far as possible always be the first step - taking matters to court should be the last resort for parents who separate.
· The procedures and powers of the family courts should be much more open and fair.
"The current system is hugely expensive, inefficient, unfair, insensitive and often, fairly chaotic. All of this causes resentment, frustration and anger in families across North Norfolk. I believe there should be a presumption that the extended family has a crucial role to play in the upbringing of children."
"Fathers for Justice exists because many fathers have been excluded from their children's upbringing by a legal system which often acts against them. However, I must be clear that while I support many of the aims of F4J I do not condone some of their campaigning tactics. There is a fine line between a harmless stunt and an act of dangerous irresponsibility."