200 Children lose contact with their fathers every day in secret courts.
1 in 3 children live without their father
Nearly 4 million children are fatherless in the UK.
£44 Billion is the cost of family breakdown every year.
Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) was formed in the summer of 2001 by London-based creative director and political activist Matt O’Connor after he was denied access to his two sons Daniel and Alexander in Britain’s Secret Family Courts. This followed a difficult separation from his first wife.
Despite resolving the matter out of court in late 2001 and re-establishing a normal relationship with his boys, O’Connor pledged to reform family law for the benefit of his sons whom he feared would suffer the same experience when they became fathers. On 17th December 2002, Fathers 4 Justice staged their first direct action demonstration when 200 Father Christmases stormed the lobby of the then Lord Chancellor’s Department.
Since then O’Connor has masterminded the creation of one of the highest profile campaign groups in the world, spawning a host of imitation (but unrelated) groups in different countries. His iconic protests have garnered worldwide publicity for a cause shrouded in secrecy by the courts and ignored by the political and religious elite.
From Spiderman at Tower Bridge to Batman at Buckingham Palace and the flour-bombing of the Prime Minister in the chamber of the House of Commons, the campaign for truth, justice and equality in family law has captured the public imagination, catapulting the issues surrounding family law to the top of the political agenda, and inspiring thousands of disenfranchised parents and grandparents alike to campaign for equal parenting rights.
Given the attention the campaign received, it is unsurprising that the history of F4J has not been without incident. In 2006 The Sun newspaper ran a front-page story saying that ‘extremist’ elements on the outskirts of F4J had been plotting to kidnap then Prime Minister’s son, five-year-old Leo Blair.
It transpired that the story was a gossamer thin smear, but in an increasingly murky world where the authorities were attempting to subvert the organisation, O’Connor temporarily disbanded the campaign, and in doing so, secured even more front-page coverage for F4J.
By the latter part of the decade, with the departure of Tony Blair as Prime Minister, F4J switched from direct action to political dialogue and between June 2008 to May 2011, the organisation negotiated in good faith with the Conservative Party, securing 10 written commitments to reform family law. In June 2011 the Prime Minister David Cameron broke those commitments and on Fathers Day he launched an unprecedented attack on fathers.
Just days later, on the 10th anniversary of his forming Fathers 4 Justice, O’Connor staged an eight-day hunger strike outside the Prime Minister’s home. In September 2011 F4J staged their second protest at Buckingham Palace. In March 2012 F4J launched Children4Justice and in July 2012 the ASA banned a national newspaper advert by F4J which accused Mumsnet of publishing ‘anti-male hatred’ on their website.
In May 2012 O’Connor was banned from entering London during the State Opening of Parliament. The government subsequently failed in an attempt to ban him from going within 100 metres of any venue at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In October 2012 the government outlined proposals to give fathers shared parenting rights.
Fathers4Justice is the world’s largest equal parenting campaign group with 36,000 registered families in the UK. It is also the third highest supported campaign group in the UK behind Greenpeace & Amnesty International (Conservative Party Polling 2011) and their position on Equal Parenting enjoys 84% public support. (YouGov, 13/6/12)