Judge tells MPs: 'I won't meet fathers' group'

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The Independent Online

The country's most senior family law judge told a committee of MPs yesterday she would not meet members of a controversial fathers' groups while they continued their campaign of public disruption.

The country's most senior family law judge told a committee of MPs yesterday she would not meet members of a controversial fathers' groups while they continued their campaign of public disruption.

Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said Fathers4Justice had shown themselves to be "not sensible" after they attacked the Prime Minister with a purple flour bomb and scaled the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

They had done their cause further harm by demonstrating outside the homes of a number of well-known family law justices, including Dame Elizabeth's own country cottage in the West Country, said the judge.

Other moderate fathers' groups, such as Families Need Fathers and Fathers Direct, had enjoyed positive discussions with the president of the Family Division of the High Court, members of the select committee for constitutional affairs were told. But Dame Elizabeth added: "I cannot meet Fathers4Justice because they are not being sensible, and as long as they throw condoms with purple powder and send a double-decker bus with a loudspeaker outside my private house in the West Country there is no point. They are not going to talk, they are going to tell me."

Over the past three years, militant fathers' protests have developed from the waving of placards outside family court buildings to much more daring publicity stunts. Members of Fathers4Justice, dressed in comicbook superhero costumes, have caused disruption by scaling bridges and other public buildings.

In May, they managed to breach security at the House of Commons and launch a flour bomb attack on the Prime Minister. Last month the group attracted worldwide headlines when a father dressed as Batman broke into the grounds of Buckingham Palace to scale the royal balcony.

The group believes that the court system is unfair because it favours mothers over fathers. This is a view that has been supported by celebrities including Bob Geldof, whose outspoken attacks on family courts have helped Fathers4Justice's membership to reach 6,000.

Dame Elizabeth denied yesterday that the system was biased against fathers and insisted that the welfare of the child was paramount. "There is nothing in the law that leans to choosing one parent or another," she told the committee, which was chaired by the Liberal Democrat MP, Alan Beith. The Fathers4Justice founder, Matt O'Connor, said he was dismayed by yesterday's hearing, which he said showed that the judges did not understand the plight of parents.