Fathers 4 Justice protester handcuffs himself to Hodge

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A campaigner with the pressure group Fathers 4 Justice invaded a conference yesterday and handcuffed himself to Margaret Hodge, the minister for Children, for 40 minutes.

A campaigner with the pressure group Fathers 4 Justice invaded a conference yesterday and handcuffed himself to Margaret Hodge, the minister for Children, for 40 minutes.

Jonathan "Jolly" Stanesby, 38, a registered childminder from Ivybridge in Devon, made what he called a "citizen's arrest" at a family law conference organised by the Law Society.

He stormed the stage at the Lowry Hotel in Salford with Jason Hatch, the activist who scaled Buckingham Palace in September dressed as Batman, during a question-and-answer session after Mrs Hodge had made a speech. Police used bolt cutters supplied by the hotel to free the Labour MP for Barking. Mr Stanesby was arrested and released later on police bail until 16 December. The Law Society condemned the stunt. The society's chief executive, Janet Paraskeva, who was sitting next to Mrs Hodge when she was handcuffed, said: "The Law Society is appalled by the behaviour of Fathers 4 Justice. It diminishes the debate and in no way serves the interests of children or their parents."

Fathers 4 Justice, which was also responsible for the purple powder attack on Tony Blair in the House of Commons in May, said the protest was the first in a series of stunts planned for the pre-Christmas period. The organisation said it planned "a Christmas of chaos" to target the 10 "most wanted" people in family law, including Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, and Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court Family Division.

Mr Hatch, 32, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said: "This is the Fathers 4 Justice response to the Home Office report called Making Contact Work. We believe in non-violent direct action. This is our message to get the Government to listen and let them know they cannot ignore us any longer." He added: "We walked straight up to Mrs Hodge, who was sat at a table, and I said: 'You're under arrest'. Jolly handcuffed her and I tried to do the same but was hit and pushed away."

Stephen Thomas, Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, said: "The man was arrested on suspicion of assault and causing a disturbance. He was taken to Swinton police station where he will be interviewed."

Mrs Hodge had a run-in with Fathers 4 Justice a week ago. Police had to hold back protesters when she arrived to deliver a speech near Bootle, Merseyside, last Friday.

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