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Monday 22 September 2014

Standing on the touchline – Fathers for Justice and Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor's situation with his local MP, Caroline Nokes, touches upon a fundamental aspect of the campaign for fathers' rights which is in danger of being overlooked because of the personalities involved.

Justice lies at the heart of the campaign seeking to break down traditional gender stereotyping of mothers and fathers. To try and draw attention to this fundamental problem when F4J burst onto the scene it engaged in a number of stunts involving fathers sitting on the roofs of judges. Formerly under UK law there was limited recourse for the homeowners because whilst drawing attention to the plight of fathers no malicious damage was done to their property. This reflected a fundamental element of UK law because however much the judges inside their houses disliked the fathers outside they could not effectively prosecute them because in legal jargon there was no recourse or redress.

To deal with this situation the UK Government introduced legislation at the behest of the judiciary who wanted protection. This led to new laws that meant fathers sitting on the top of houses could now be prosecuted if the judges inside felt threatened or intimidated. This was a fundamental change in UK law because now the police did not need 'physical' evidence to make a prosecution they could simply refer to the feelings and emotions of those who felt vulnerable. This has set a precedent in which other groups such as gay rights' activists may use the same laws in this way.

But does UK law still apply equally to everybody?

Now look at the case of the founder of F4J Matt O'Connor. He feels threatened by the antics of his neighbour Caroline Nokes MP. His argument is that the police have simply turned a 'blind eye'.

But this is because the law was never intended to protect fathers it was introduced to prosecute them.

As if to highlight this point, by pursuing his MP in the press Matt O'Connor has fallen victim to the very laws he sought to use to protect himself.

Instead of applying equally to everybody these new laws reinforce the status quo and it could also be argued are also enforced by the police when it is politically acceptable.

The exact circumstances of the case involving Matt O'Connor are still unclear but there is a move not to apply the law without fear or favour but according to a new criteria which for example only treats mothers and their children as the victims of 'hate' crimes.

Kingsley Miller, 22 September 2014