I am 45 today.

I have been very lucky. I have a great family, great day job and most importantly to me, an amazing wife who was put through hell in the family courts because of her relationship with me, but who has channelled that experience positively for the benefit of other parents.

Tonight she is working upstairs on the case of two daughters who formed Children4Justice and their father. They are in court on Wednesday fighting to see a sister/daughter they haven’t seen in over 3 years. The actions of both sets of legal teams (the father recently discharged his team) have been an utter disgrace.

Some people seem to think they can exploit people like Jamie Tottman and his daughters Stacey and Abigail and get away with it.

I have news for them. You can’t. Because we won’t let you.

Some people think they can profit from family breakdown by offering false hope and peddling books that were written for financial gain as if they hadn’t made enough money from the system already.

You can’t. Because we won’t let you.

Some people think that the debate on family law reform should be sterilised of emotion and sanitised of anger. It can’t. The lawyers, barristers and judiciary need to hear YOUR pain. They need to feel your anger. The raw emotion of how it feels to have your flesh and blood taken away from you. The pain of loss, the living bereavement so many of us have experienced.

This is no business transaction. The words you hear are the sound of people’s lives being ripped apart.

Our language and rhetoric should at times be calm, rational and on occasion, diplomatic. As someone who manages some of the UK’s biggest brands, that is an essential skill. But at other times words should shock, provoke and inspire. Sometimes words can be used as bait.

I am pleased that the motives of Lucy Reed were flushed out into the open this week. I understand F4J is seeking to find out whether the views on her blog represent those of St John’s Chambers, but her contempt of the very people she professed such concern for (and is trying to sell her book to) should be contrasted to that of the work of two women who have dedicated their lives to children and families.

I don’t know Karen Woodall, but I believe her intelligent and informed viewpoint is increasingly becoming one of the most essential voices in the debate on family law reform. She is a godsend to the equal parenting movement.

Secondly, Nadine O’Connor, Campaign Director for F4J (who has herself been on the receiving end of Reed’s barbed comments), is proving to be an articulate and powerful advocate for equal parenting. Having been mentored by Dr Michael Pelling, she is now one of this country’s most formidable McKenzie friends and works tirelessly whether it’s in the media, in the courts or arranging the meeting between Children4Justice and Cafcass CEO Anthony Douglas in the coming weeks.

These two women demonstrate the gulf between those who are taking fathers for a ride on the family law gravy train, and those who are voluntary campaigners motivated by justice, not profit.

Today, I’d like to express my thanks to them both for the gift they share with all of us. The gift of compassion.

Matt O’Connor 25/2/12

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