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Fathers for justice vow to fight on

19:53 05 September 2003

UNREPENTANT protesters who painted a door purple to highlight child custody laws they claim are unfair, today vowed that they will do it again.

Sarah Ashford, 39, of Goldsmith Close, Bury St Edmunds, Matthew O'Connor, 36 of Water Lane, Cavendish and Shaun O'Connell, 40 of San Diego Road, Gosport, Hampshire were found guilty of causing criminal damage, at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court.

UNREPENTANT protesters who painted a door purple to highlight child custody laws they claim are unfair, today vowed that they will do it again.

Sarah Ashford, 39, of Goldsmith Close, Bury St Edmunds, Matthew O'Connor, 36 of Water Lane, Cavendish and Shaun O'Connell, 40 of San Diego Road, Gosport, Hampshire were found guilty of causing criminal damage, at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court.

The trio are members of the Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) protest group, and they admitted painting a door of the Children and Family Courts Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) purple.

However, they pleaded not guilty to the charge, as they claimed their actions were part of a peaceful protest to say that CAFCASS staff are 'under-trained', 'discriminate against fathers', and 'destroy families'.

The trio said they painted the door purple as it is a colour of equality and their actions on February 5 caused £190 worth of damage to the CAFCASS building in Foundation Street, Ipswich.

After a two-day trial, they each received a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £63.33 compensation and £254.66 court costs.

They pledged to appeal against the sentence, and to continue protesting even though they could go to prison.

F4J are based in Suffolk and were formed in December last year. The group said it does not mind the punishment as this case has helped raise awareness and put it 'on the map.'

There are currently more than 3,000 members, with membership having increased by at least 2,000 during the court proceedings.

O'Connor said after the court case: "What happened at Ipswich was a watershed and similar protests have now happened across the country."

Last week CAFCASS offices in Truro, Exeter and Cornwall were targeted but some people believed the group protested in the wrong way. F4J claim that this was the only way for the group to get any recognition, and members insist that they demonstrate in a good-natured way and with no intimidation or menace.

O'Connell said: "We have tried talking but that does not work. We have to break the law to get the publicity."

F4J has not ruled out painting the door purple again if it feels no action is being taken.

O'Connor said: "We are talking to CAFCASS nationally but if they do not get their house in order, then we will be back again until justice is done. I am prepared to go to prison if push comes to shove.

"I have a duty to protect my children and make sure the law in this country is changed."

"As Martin Luther King said, 'At first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Nobody from CAFCASS was available for comment.

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Weblink: www.fathers-4-justice.org

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