We are Family. We are Fathers 4 Justice. We are Back.
“Let there be trouble in my day. That my child may have peace.”
Thus spoke American revolutionary Thomas Paine. His words have echoed in my ears ever since my visit to Washington DC to speak at the Boys Crisis conference organised by the inimitable Tom Golden and where illustrious speakers like Warren Farrell and Dr Stephen Baskerville taught me more in those two days than five years campaigning ever did.
It has been a decade since I experienced first hand the cruel and grotesque charade that is the secret family courts.
It has been eight years since I started Fathers 4 Justice, one of the biggest campaign groups of modern times.
And it has been nearly two years since I stepped down from frontline campaigning after deciding that we had taken our campaign as far as we would.
I was emotionally exhausted and shattered from my experiences. I was running on empty and had nothing left to give. It needed a new pioneer, with a new name and new vision to pick up the reigns and champion the cause of equal parenting.
From a purely selfish point of view I also had three boys who had barely seen me for the previous six-years. Weekends were surrendered to countless calls or meetings. Ask them now and they still bristle at the lack of attention they were shown at times, not because of the family courts, but because of Fathers 4 Justice.
I had also experienced a considerable loss of earnings and needed to get the family back up on our feet financially by launching my own ice cream brand in Selfridges last year as well as being a Creative Director on some of the world’s biggest brands.
So I have been both lucky and fortunate, not only to have a great career, but an amazing family. But every upside, has a downside. The problem was that whilst I wanted to leave the campaign, the campaign refused to leave me. So when people ask me why we have returned, there are very good reasons for doing so.
This isn’t for the glory or some fictional monetary gain. I get plenty of both in the day job. It’s because I have three boys who will become fathers.
And it is also because of the following reasons which have never before been disclosed. We are making this disclosure today, on the day our country has a new Prime Minister, so that you can make an informed judgement about Fathers 4 Justice and other groups who claim to act in our name.
Much of what I am to tell you is subject to various injunctions so some information is omitted and where this is the case, we have stated the reasons why.
Firstly, my family has been subjected to the family courts for the second time in a decade. Restrictive injunctions applied for by my wife’s ex husband with the support of the judiciary prevent me from disclosing details of an appalling residency dispute that has lasted for over eight years of their daughter’s ten years on God’s earth.
We have exhausted every avenue in an attempt to resolve this. We have engaged the services of fathers rights advocates Michael Cox and Dr Michael Pelling in an attempt to mediate a solution with Nadine’s ex husband, but to no avail. What I can clearly state is that the dispute concerns the fathers repeated applications for sole residency, not contact as claimed by many uninformed observers, (citing our membership of Fathers 4 Justice as a ‘concern’), and that Phillippa enjoys over half the school holidays with her father and as much other time as they wish as she has always done in those 8 years.
To experience family law once is traumatic. To experience it twice leaves you desperate, traumatised and emotionally disemboweled. I consider the actions of the judiciary in my wife’s case to be motivated not out of the child’s best interests, but out of malice and spite against us for the campaign we have run against them. I do not recognise their authority and I consider their actions a threat to the welfare of our children and family and for that reason alone, I felt compelled to act.
However, there are other extraordinary factors that have come into play that none of us anticipated.
Weeks after retiring from frontline campaigning in 2008, Counter Terrorism Command, who are based at Scotland Yard, visited me in Hampshire to ‘assess’ my risk to the establishment. They conducted a two-hour interview in the presence of my wife and Michael Cox during which they expressed some skepticism about my career in ice cream, obviously thinking this was some kind of cover for a plan for global domination.
From that point onwards I have been tracked to the middle of Italy, to my apartment in Winchester and all over the UK.
This was followed by a curiously ‘impromptu’ and frankly bizarre chat at Waterloo station with an officer from Scotland Yard who appeared behind us and tapped me and Nadine on the shoulders to let us know in his words – and I quote verbatim – that “If you had carried on O’Connor you were seen as a greater threat to the establishment than terrorism. The reason they never left you alone was because there were two schools of thought. One was to leave you alone, the other to keep prodding you to see what you were up to.” You can draw your own conclusions.
Then on 14th July 2009, Jack Straw, the Secretary for State at the Department for Justice, the Treasury Solicitor and the Lord Chancellor obtained an injunction against me and Fathers 4 Justice as a result of emails that were allegedly sent from me to them, which threatened to publish the names and addresses of 237 judges in the UK.
Of course I had never sent this spammed email and, because as I pointed out to them, we had already run this particular ‘Judgebuster’ campaign two years earlier. If any degree of due diligence had been conducted it was clearly obvious that the ‘Message ID’ in the email contained the name of the actual sender. The sender was a disgruntled fathers rights activist whose motivations remain unexplained. Significantly, and rather oddly, no action was taken against this person.
The Treasury Solicitor eventually backed down, but not before wasting tens of thousands of tax payers money in this phony smear. It was desperate stuff, to see people who claimed to be fathers rights activists colluding with the judiciary and hijacking my name to smear me. But this wasn’t going to be the last time it would happen.
In late 2009 we were contacted by the national press regarding small scale ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ demonstrations that were homophobic, racist and threatening. These ugly protests by copycat groups were threatening to trash our legacy and destroy the latent goodwill the public had for F4J. We acted swiftly by sending legal letters to the national media in an attempt to distance ourselves from those who were pirating our name.
Then in March of this year, we received a call from Thames Valley Police regarding threatening, abusive and distressing emails and letters sent to the now Prime Minister David Cameron and his family. The Police said these had been sent by representatives from ‘Fathers 4 Justice’. The correspondence was highly offensive and had caused great distress to Mr Cameron and his family.
We informed the Police that Fathers 4 Justice was in talks with the Conservative Party Shadow Cabinet and that somebody was not only using our name, but in doing so posed a direct risk to our negotiations with a future Prime Minister who was sympathetic to our needs and prepared to start family law reform with Fathers 4 Justice, within days of taking government.
Rather than attacking those who have presided over family law for the last 13 years including Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown and the judiciary, they chose to attack our supporters. I can only conclude that there are those in the Fathers movement who are enemies within, working to protect the Labour party and the judiciary and destroy this movement at a grassroots level. These are the actions of people defending the indefensible, not campaigning for change.
I had created the Fathers 4 Justice name back in 2002 to launch a campaign of hope, not hate. To be radically different from Families Need Fathers. I did not seek to pirate their name or copy their logo or prefix their mark to create names like ‘Real’ Families Need Fathers or ‘New’ Families Need Fathers.
Fathers 4 Justice is not just a name, it represents a set of values laid down in our Blueprint in Family Law. It is not a badge that can be stuck on any group. It belongs to the people responsible for creating it and those people belong to Fathers 4 Justice.
Some might think that impersonating people and stealing their ideas and work are perfectly acceptable. But as you have seen, the damage it has done to our name and reputation matters to us and those who invested their lives in this campaign because our names are inextricably linked to it. The situation required a swift response and that’s why names and trademarks matter. If someone was doing something in your name that resulted in the Police turning up at your front door and injunctions being served against you, you are going to take action to defend your name.
This is why we will at all times act to protect the name and reputation of this campaign.
Of course these actions just compounded the absence of any campaign.
No front page news, no big stories, nothing. F4J – from hero to zero. When I started Fathers 4 Justice we ran the biggest campaign in the country, now thanks to splinter groups, it was a pathetic, limp-wristed castration of the original. We needed to bring the talent back, the original team and get the campaign back on the road and finish off the job we had started.
Because this isn’t about me, or you, or about ‘them’ – it’s about the kids. I have three boys who will become fathers and my duty of care is to them. If you want to see the difference between us and other campaign groups, its our capacity to deliver. To generate headlines. Because whatever you think of us, judge us by our work by our results, results that not one other group has come close to generating because they don’t have the team, the skill set or the ability to see this job through to the end.
In a little over four-weeks we have created a brand new full-scale campaign. Thanks to Nadine and this amazing team we have of both old and new hands, we are dealing direct with Nick Clegg and the hierarchy of the Conservative Party. Navigating the continually shifting political tightrope requires skill and judgment and that’s why this group has the ONLY team capable of engaging in meaningful discussion when required, and direct action in the event change is not forthcoming.
Eight years ago I created the biggest ever campaign in the history of fathers rights. We now intend to finish what we started. Our role is not to in-fight, launch personal attacks or smear.
Our role is to lead.
In these courts, in this Devils Labyrinth, this crucible of injustice, the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice was born, created to prevent my three sons suffering the same fate as me when they became fathers. These are my core beliefs:
I do not recognise the authority of the family courts because my duty of care is to our children first, justice second and the law third.
I do not recognise a state that enslaves parents, strips them of their rights and does so in complete secrecy.
I do not recognise a system of justice that preys on the weak and the vulnerable.
I abhor those who use bigotry and hatred against women and minorities whilst failing to attack the state and the judiciary. We can only overcome by bringing together, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.
Because this is about family, and when your family is attacked, you have a duty to defend them. If you want to surrender your life and your children’s future through petty bickering and infighting, then we are not the organisation for you.
However, if you want to be part of the future, to be one of the names that makes the difference, then there is only one name and one organisation.
Fathers 4 Justice demand the long defended civil liberties of equality and open justice, established for hundreds of years and for which our forefathers have fought two world wars to defend.
If justice is not done – and is seen to be done soon – one family will redress that balance. That family is Fathers 4 Justice.
We are family. We are Fathers 4 Justice. And we are back to finish what we started.
Founder, Fathers 4 Justice