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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK
Fathers' cathedral protest ends
Fathers 4 Justice
The church must help in the fight for fathers' rights, protesters say
Two members of fathers' rights group Fathers 4 Justice have ended a rooftop protest at York Minster.

Police said the pair were arrested on suspicion of assault, criminal damage and wasting police time, after ending the protest peacefully on Sunday night.

Twelve protesters who had disrupted a service of the Church of England's General Synod were also arrested.

The protest was over the church's "failure" to lobby the government over access to their children.

The 12 protesters entered York Minster dressed as monks, vicars and nuns, shouting "fathers for justice" and "shame on you".

They were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and assault, and bailed by North Yorkshire Police to return at a later date.

Protest message

Senior members of the Anglican Church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had filed into the cathedral for the service unaware of the impending chaos.

Remember, half a million children are deprived of contact with their fathers and the church does nothing
Fathers 4 Justice

The protesters were allowed to read a message out to the congregation which said that the church "promoted marriage but is not prepared to act when there is breakdown between the parent and the child".

Fathers 4 Justice leader Matt O'Connor was earlier rugby tackled and dragged out of the service by church members.

As he picked himself up he shouted: "Remember, half a million children are deprived of contact with their fathers and the church does nothing. Shame on you."

The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Keith Jones, said: "We deeply regret the violent intrusion into a place of Christian worship and witness - that should not have happened".

Powder bomb

Father 4 Justice was formed two years ago to campaign against what it sees as an inability to help fathers gain access to their children through legal action.

It hit the headlines in May with a purple powder bomb attack on Tony Blair in the House of Commons.

The group's latest protest comes after newspaper reports that Tory leader Michael Howard will call for shared parenting rights as he stages a summit on custody battles.

Ministers are considering law changes that would give divorced fathers a better deal on custody and access rights, according to the Sunday Times.

Shared parenting

Mothers who flout court orders by denying ex-husbands access could receive community service orders under the proposals, the paper adds.

The summit will consider the idea of shared parenting, where mothers and fathers get equal access rights, which is common practice in New Zealand, Australia and the US.

In the Observer, a government minister is quoted as saying that fathers have a "very strong and I think very justified sense of grievance" about the family courts.

The government must tackle "an absolute gender bias" in the courts which says a child's place is with its mother, the minister said.

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