Cafcass reverses ban on talks with militant fathers’ groups

    The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has
    reversed its ban on talks with militant fathers’ groups,
    despite reports of increased staff intimidation by activists,
    writes Mithran Samuel.

    Chief executive Anthony Douglas has held talks with Fathers 4
    Justice leader Matt O’Connor, ending a freeze imposed in May
    2003 as a result of staff harassment and attacks on Cafcass offices
    by militants.

    The door is also open to the Equal Parenting Council, the other
    group subject to the ban.

    However, a report out last week by family court union Napo finds
    intimidation by militant groups has increased, with staff
    threatened on websites and further vandalism to Cafcass
    offices.

    Napo has presented the findings to Cafcass and children’s
    minister Margaret Hodge and called for activists to be prosecuted
    and injunctions used to protect staff.

    A Cafcass spokesperson said it condemned the intimidation but
    had decided that dialogue was the best way of protecting staff and
    tackling claims that Cafcass is biased against fathers.

    Napo assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said:
    “There is no evidence of systematic bias against
    fathers…However, the escalation in intimidation against
    family court staff has caused stress and is bound to lead to
    absenteeism.”

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