Bigotry is Free at The Guardian

AN OPEN LETTER TO DEBORAH ORR IN RESPONSE TO HER ARTICLE ‘THE FAMILY COURTS ARE HERE TO HELP CHILDREN’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/11/family-justice-review-norgrove-report?newsfeed=true

Dear Deborah,

I cannot let your comment piece (‘The family courts are there to help children, not get ‘justice’ for parents’) in the Guardian go unchallenged. But hey, ‘Comment is free’.

And so apparently is ill-informed bigotry and prejudice masquerading as informed comment.

You warmly describe the Norgrove Report in glowing terms saying it is a “sober, intelligent and sensitive document…the family court system is there to act in the best interests of the children…it is wise.”

Firstly, I would ask you to direct me to the empirical evidence you rely on to support the claim that the secret family courts act in ‘the child’s best interests.’

Neither David Norgrove (the report author), the panel, the government nor the judiciary have any evidence whatsoever to support this claim. I know, I have asked them all. I asked David Norgrove again when we met at the BBC last week, for the evidence he used to support this claim in the report and he simply said (and I quote verbatim), ‘judges think they are acting in the child’s best interests.’

Think? Are you fucking kidding me? You are in a court and you are relying on what a 70 year old judge ‘thinks’ to make a life-changing decision? What happened to evidence in a court? What sort of report is it that can’t even stand up it’s core claim?

The fact is Deborah, nobody knows if the courts have acted in the child’s best interests because nobody has bothered to keep any records on the outcomes for children who have been through the court system.

The entire premise of family law, and in turn your article, is based on this wicked deceit. If you had conducted even the most rudimentary research to support your article, you would have understood this. That is why we branded the report a ‘monstrous sham’ because the ‘child’s best interests’ myth is the biggest lie ever perpetrated in the history of British Justice.

All the evidence concludes that the outcomes of a fatherless nation are this: rioting children, the highest rate of young offending in Western Europe, an explosion in anti-social behaviour, the highest rate of teen pregnancies etc. I could go on, and on, and on. No doubt you will dismiss any possible link between fatherlessness and these social ills or the fact that 1 in 3 children now lives in a fatherless families, but the effects and costs to us as a country are catastrophic.

Further, the family court system you so affectionately describe is in fact one of the most brutal and secretive regimes in the world. Operated by an unelected, unaccountable and unsackable Star Chamber, it is a perversion of the course of natural justice. It trashes lives, destroys childhoods, tears families apart, strips them of their savings; it even pitches parent against parent. It criminalises and crushes you before suffocating you with a blanket of secrecy and censorship. It is like being buried alive. The only interests the courts act in are self-interests, not the child’s best interests.

The oppressive secrecy deployed by the courts would make the regimes in Iran, North Korea and even China blush, but you lazily accept the rose tinted view of the report. Did you not think to question the reason why the secrecy remains in place? To protect the system from scrutiny, accountability and transparency. So the official version of the ‘truth’ remains, leaving journalists like you to pick away at the tit-bits of propaganda laid out for you.

And if you don’t believe me, I will happily rock up to the Guardian and show you the court orders and injunctions preventing F4J from speaking out about the most vile and disgusting abuses of children, matters of public interest that should be put on public record but can’t because the secrecy (and threat of jail) exists to protect the reputation (what’s left) of the system, not the children it purports to protect.

And if you are still in denial then, I will take you to a few of our surgeries where you can watch men crumble in despair, grandparents collapse in fear they will never see their grandchildren again, watch people on the edge of breakdown, clinging by their fucking fingertips to the edge of life. I will then take you to the courts where you are not allowed, but can enter as a McKenzie friend. What you need to see with your own eyes is the barbaric, destructive nature of our wonderful family courts in action.

Perhaps then the Guardian can pull its bigoted editorial head out of its lazy, liberal arse and start actually investigating what happens to our children in these courts.

You claim there is nothing the courts can do. Really? Ok, why do they exist then? Why do the Ministry of Justice and the huge legal gravy train puffing away behind them spend so much money marketing themselves to families in breakdown? Because its business. A filthy, grubby, Dickensian business that is predicated on conflict, because that’s how they make money. On mutually assured destruction – on laying waste to a child’s inheritance.

This is yet another lie perpetrated by the system – what can we do? Well you take the money. Then you divide the children on a winner takes all basis. And that takes us to one of our key points – children are not to be divided in a Solomon like judgment. Children deserve BOTH their parents, not to spend interminable years trapped in a secretive and fucked up court system that destroys parents and their childhoods.

On your claim that ‘most people negotiate it all themselves’ this is yet another false claim we are tired of correcting. This mantra is often quoted in an attempt to diminish the scale of the crisis in family breakdown, but everybody knows somebody affected. Even the Family Justice Review panel’s report stated that half a million mothers, fathers and children go through the family courts every year.  Lord Justice Coleridge estimated that 3 million children were affected by the courts.  It is difficult to calculate the real figure because we don’t know how many cohabiting couples separate each year – unlike a divorce there is no record. There is no data recorded by the courts and the system knows nothing about itself.

With regard to your claims about discrimination against fathers and the ‘illusion of gender bias’, well that’s one hell of a fucking illusion; 97% of residencies are awarded to mothers.

The only upside to the Norgrove report is that it pulled back part of the cloak of secrecy and revealed that yes, fathers have no rights. Alleluia! At last, people (with the sole exclusion of the Guardian) now begin to understand that men and boys are systematically discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

But what really disappoints me is this;

You are fully aware through your husband (Will Self) that both myself and my wife have first hand experience of both sides of the family law divide and have helped thousands of fathers, mothers, grandparents and yes, children, through the system (see Jolly Stanesby and his daughter on ITV on our home page). You could of course have fact checked the article or bothered to call us and confirm our position. What lets you down then is that with this knowledge, you pepper your piece with bitchy comments that denigrate and demean the conscientious efforts of Fathers 4 Justice.

Ref your false concern about our public profile, I have your husband to thank for suggesting a few alternative approaches to addressing the issue. We engaged politically over recent years because of a misplaced faith in our democracy, because like Don Quixote, we love nothing better than tilting at fucking windmills (after six-years of hanging off buildings). He’ll be pleased to know it turned out as expected; the Tories are a bunch of lying shits and we will be dealing with them in due course on a very public platform.

But the bottom line is this Deborah. After 10 godforsaken years, I am disgusted and sickened that this risible propaganda is peddled as ‘informed comment’.

It is a pernicious, ideologically driven prejudice that feeds a gender apartheid that affects fathers, families and boys alike. It’s the same sort of despicable prejudice I fought against when I was in the anti-apartheid movement. Vile discrimination spouted by the likes of Eugene Terre’Blanche who said blacks didn’t deserve the right to vote because of the colour of their skin. Now you are saying fathers shouldn’t have the right to be treated equally – not because of the colour of their skin – but because of their genitalia.

In doing so you condemn your sons to share the same fate because in your words the inequality is ‘quite right.’

For 10 years we have fought for the peace in family law against Herculean odds. Criminal courts are no place for families but trying to persuade people like you is like trying to persuade old racists. You are simply an apologist for the systemic abuse of children behind closed doors, because like all child abuse, that’s where it takes place.

I can’t convince you – but I think time will. If feral children and a feckless anti-social youth rattling around your neighbourhood don’t convince you, it will be a virtual statistical certainty that you or one of your children will find yourselves at the mercy of the family courts in the future and you will not only begin to feel the pain of the living bereavement of losing a child, but you will thank god that people like us were stupid enough to still believe in equality and fairness.

What are you going to say to Will Self Jnr when the CSA come knocking on his door and treat him as the ‘absent’ parent on the basis of his gender? What are you going to tell him when he asks why it is that the less time he spends with his kids, the more he pays? It’s like paying income tax when you are unemployed. This government loves absent dads. Loves to demonise them, but god-forbid they want to see their children. In Cameron’s Britain you can abandon your children tomorrow provided you pay – but shouldn’t child support be about emotional and financial support?

Because the one thing you have got right is that it is about the kids. And it’s about the boys you have condemned to share the same fate as their fathers because your discrimination has blinded you. When your children ask you as a grandmother, why they can’t see their children, you’ll never be able to blame us for not trying on their behalf because unlike you, I think they deserve better.

They deserve equality irrespective of gender.

All our children do.

Matt O’Connor
Founder, Fathers 4 Justice

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