If you're a pressure group and measure success purely in terms of column inches achieved then Fathers 4 Justice must be feeling pretty smug.
After all, their flour bombing of Tony Blair in the Commons certainly got them publicity - yards and yards of it. But it led some to wonder out loud, if that was their idea of mature protest, was it any wonder the courts took a dim view of their contact rights - the main cause of their unhappiness. Others though said it merely reflected desperation at the state of family law.
Fathers 4 Justice held a rally in London - ahead of Fathers Day. So what drives this group's strategy? Richard Watson gained access to the heart of their operations in the run-up to the march.
(Fathers for Justice)
This campaign will change. We will
keep chopping and changing strategy.
We will challenge the police and the
public in the coming months.
In the quiet reaches of Suffolk
countryside lies the nerve centre for
perhaps the fastest growing campaign in
Britain, Fathers for Justice. Earlier this
week tucked away in the grounds of a
13th century manner, the movement's
founder, Matt O'Connor is finalising plans.
It's the most stressful time. Just trying to
cope. I think some of the guys are
coming up this afternoon. Then we've
got a full house tomorrow. When it gets
to the point where that is likely to be the
case, can you ring and say, "if I don't get
in this the next hour I'll put a few
fireworks up people's back sides".
Thanks for calling me. Matt speaking...
Fathers for Justice is run by Matt and
one assistant out of this room. They can
barely cope with the increased demand
for information, especially after activists flour bombed Tony Blair last month,
which created a security scare in
The Labour Party was forged in the fires
of civil disobedience. It amazes me that
the party has forgotten their roots.
No regrets about that?
Categorically not. Fathers for Justice
always claim and account for our
actions. There's always a bit of humour
in it. Condom for obvious reasons, self-
raising flour, again for obvious reasons.
It got them off their feet any way.
This stuff is against the law though.
That is the nature of this organisation.
We do explore the outer extremities of
the law. We break the law deliberately
and are prepared to be held for account
for that. Whether or not we're right, we'll let history be our judge.
Matt O'Connor who launched the group
18 months after a messy divorce drove
50,000 miles last year, mainly he said, to
avoid being monitored by the police.
Direct action is the key to the group's
fast growing support, but can he be sure
some supporters won't go too far? Last
weekend activists claiming to be from
Fathers for Justice sabotaged a television
transmitter in Shropshire. It has nothing
to do with us. In fact I was annoyed with
that; my children were with me at the
time. I wanted some peaceful time with
my children. I switched my phone off on
Sunday morning because of the number
of calls I was getting about this
transmitter incident. Let's face it,
hopefully we've got a degree of savvy
about us. Who wants to switch off a
transmitter during Euro 2004 and hack
off the people we're trying to recruit?
You could get mavericks out there, you
do some extreme things.
Last week we warned Scotland Yard
about concerns that we'd had about
a possible splinter group. There is very
little we can do about that apart from
keeping the vast majority of people in
this organisation on board and
disciplined. Our coordinators sign up to
a national agreement, which I will show
you. We have national coordinator's
meetings. We run it like a military
Fantastic. That's really good.
The campaign's focus is beginning to
shift from men in tights to more serious
discussion. Today is a big day, the first
copies of Father for Justice's so-called
"Blueprint" for the complete overhaul of
the family law courts is ready. The group
says hearings are secretive, costly and
take too long. Some women are
maliciously blocking contact by creating
allegations of abuse. Some women
refuse to comply and nothing is done to
enforce the contact orders.
How do we build a fair and just in family
law not just for now, but for the next 25
years? This is about starting from
scratch. It's very radical. I know it's
difficult because Government moves
slowly. But I think that's what's needed,
radical reform. That's what this
document says. It's a case for urgent,
Are you saying then that the majority of
men who aren't getting the contact with
their kids, are being unjustly denied that
contact? You're absolutely clear about
that. Some people would argue that in
many cases they are feckless, they're
It's not just Fathers for Justice saying it.
It's the judges, the solicitors and the
politicians increasingly. People are
beginning to recognise that our family
justice system is failing fathers, mothers
and children. It needs to go and it needs
to go now.
Back at the office, they're fine tuning the
campaign. Fathers for Justice says it's
choosing music for superhero dads ready
for the march in London. But are all the
dads who've been denied contact really
superheroes or are some a threat to
women and children?
Women's groups are saying in the vast
majority of cases when women are
denying contact there's a good reason for
it, that's because men are dangerous.
That's not borne out in any way, shape or
form. I've just cited two high profile
judgments. This is about children and
about good, loving parents.
What is your view, when there is proven
evidence of domestic violence in the
family perpetrated by the man, for
example, for argument sake, do you
think contact should be automatically
sanctioned by the court, should it be
I'm not here to take about domestic
violence, I'm here to talk about family
law. Let's make a very clear
differentiation. If you want to talk about
domestic violence then do a programme
about that. But if the child's at risk from
any parent, then the child protection
authorities need to step in.
At the march in London today, we spoke
to several men who told us they'd be
denied contact after unsubstantiated
allegations of abuse or violence with
made. We're legally prevented from
reporting these in detail. Campaigners
here say much can be done to improve
the family court system. Allegations of
abuse should be dealt with swiftly. There
should be a presumption of equal
parenting duties and contact time.
Currently 22 members of Fathers for
Justice are facing prosecution for public
order offences. We were told if all the
key people were arrested the group
would roll out plan zero, widespread
Our democracy, our Parliamentarians
have failed not just fathers, not just
mothers, they've failed our children.
They've known about this for years. I
hold this democracy in contempt.
They claim their arguments are slowly
gaining ground with solicitors, judges
and politicians. They point out some
women, often new partners, support their
views. The group maintains that
breaking the law has caused their
strategy, a raise in the profile of child
contact and family law.
This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.