Court service in U-turn on militants

    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.

    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.

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

    However, a report last week by family court union Napo finds
    intimidation by militant groups has increased. 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 that the service condemned the
    intimidation but had decided that dialogue was the best way of
    protecting staff and tackling claims that Cafcass is biased against
    fathers.

    She added: “No organisation wants to say ‘we don’t engage in
    dialogue’.”

    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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