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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Protesters 'meant Hodge no harm'
Margaret Hodge MP
Margaret Hodge MP was at a Law Society conference
Two fathers' rights protesters who handcuffed former children's minister Margaret Hodge during a protest have denied ever intending to hurt her.

Ms Hodge was ambushed at a Law Society conference at the Lowry Hotel in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2004.

Jonathan Stanesby, 41, from Ivybridge, Devon, and Jason Hatch, 35, from Cheltenham, deny false imprisonment.

Both men also denied that they ever intended to cause the minister and MP for Barking harm or distress.

Mr Hatch apologised to Ms Hodge for any harm she suffered during the 20-minute ordeal.

If you look down through history, the only way to change things is by making a fuss
Jonathan Stanesby

Mr Stanesby told Manchester Crown Court that only campaigners who "make a fuss" change government policy.

The court heard how Mr Stanesby grabbed Ms Hodge by the arm before handcuffing her wrist to his at the conference on 19 November 2004.

Giving evidence at the beginning of his defence case, Mr Stanesby said: "We did it for publicity reasons. We had no intention of harming anyone in the protest.

"If you look down through history, the only way to change things is by making a fuss."

He spoke of taking part in about 15 other "stunts", once bringing the M4 motorway to a standstill after attaching himself to a bridge dressed as Father Christmas.

Mr Hatch achieved notoriety after scaling Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman.

'Direct action'

He said he took direct action after Ms Hodge ignored his letters highlighting his difficulty gaining access to his children.

Mr Hatch also told the court he was no longer a member of the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice.

He said: "One thing I still firmly believe is that Fathers 4 Justice, all the Batman and Spider-Man stuff, it was all done to get the notice of the government.

"I am very sorry for any harm that has come to Ms Hodge. There was no intention to cause any harm to her."

Mr Stanesby added he hoped his actions had been in part responsible for Mrs Hodge leaving her role as children's minister.

She is now a minister of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The case continues.

SEE ALSO
Minister 'shocked' after protest
26 Sep 07 |  Manchester
Two in court over handcuffed MP
05 Feb 07 |  Manchester

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