Sunday, October 17, 2004

Fathers for Justice

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.

Iain added:

"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."


Cruella said...

I really couldn't disagree more with your enthusiasm for F4J... The changes in law with this very small group are asking for would mean that a single mother who is offered a good job overseas would be unable to take it. So effectively she remains under the control of her ex husband or partner even though he may be contributing nothing to her life or the life of their children.

If men are so keen to be involved in their children's lives, why do so few of them apply for custody?

I have written a longer piece on the subject here:
(at the time of the Buckingham Palace incident).

Furthermore I think that agreeing to meet with their representatives after stunts such as the one at the Palace encourages their irresponsible behaviour. Would you invite Al Qaeda round for tea and muffins too?

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...
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Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

Hmmm, I think the Al Qaeda reference may be taking it a couple of steps too far. And I am not sure of the relevance of the fact that many fathers do not apply for custody - the fact that a lot of absent fathers are feckless sorts does not mean that those who do want to look after their children after a separation should be discriminated against.

Still, I do share Cruella's concern about Fathers For Justice. They do their cause no good, I am far from convinced that most responsible separated fathers feel that their case is best put by a bunch of irresponsible, publicity seeking idiots and am not sure of the wisdom of Iain lending them credibility.

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cruella said...

Sorry, perhaps my point isn't clear - those fathers who do apply for full custody of their children after relationship break-down have my full sympathy. I think they deserve the right to have their case for full custody taken very seriously. However we have to accept statistically that this is a very small proportion of cases, and it is not what F4J are talking about. F4J want legally enshrined access rights for fathers who have never asked for full custody. These are not people who are offering to help as much as they can with child care. These are people who want someone else to do the hard work all week ferrying kids to school and back, to sports and hobby clubs, feeding them, clothing them, supervising homework and settling agruements so that F4J can show up at weekends and do the fun bit.

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

I agree.

I seem to have managed to post my earlier message no fewer than three times for some reason (reflecting incompetence rather than strong feelings!) but think I have managed to delete two of them now.

Iain Dale said...

Tut tut James. Wondered if you had been on some performance enhancing drug! I will reply to all these comments tomorrow. Am about to go on radio so my mind is elsewhere...

Iain Dale said...

Cruella, I am not enthusiastic for F4J. I wish they didn't have to exist, but because of the imbalanced state of our family law they have a just cause to fight. Are you suggesting that as a politician I shouldn't meet with people who have grievances? The Al Qaeda point you make is fatuous.

I would defy you to meet the two guys I met with last week and not have huge sympathy for the situation they find themselves in through no fault of their own. I have read your comments on your Blog and while there are a couple of things I would agree with you parrot the usual one-sided feminist claptrap. You will also see that I told F4J that I disagreed with their tactics and they should calm down.

Iain Dale said...

It's not a case of lending credibility. As a politician I am happy to meet anybody who has a genuine grievance and there is no denying that F4J have just that. As I stated in the original release, I told them I disagreed with their tactics and they should adopt a new strategy now. If they carry on in this way someone will get hurt. As Cruella pointed out, the Batman on Buckingham Palace could easily have been shot. The key thing is that Fathers must have rights over the upbrining of their children too and the law quite clearly isn't working at the moment.

Cruella said...

"Feminist clap-trap"? Erm, if you oppose equal rights and equal opportunities for women, which of course is what feminism is, then I would really like to hear about it! I am appalled that in the year 2004 there is still a need to make these points. But it seems there is.

Incidentally my analogy between F4J and Al Qaeda may be at some level sensational and intended to attract attention but its not invalid at all. Both have demonstrably put lives at risk (although in Al Qaeda's case, not in the UK as far we have seen) and both have a political point to make. Al Qaeda's point, about the US-sponsored Israeli occupation of Palestine, is undoubtedly the more valid.

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