The use of violence by fathers’ rights activists: A compilation of news reports Fathers Rights Bomb Threats


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The use of violence by fathers’ rights activists: A compilation of news reports

Compiled by Michael Flood, April 2006

Note: The following is a compilation of examples of bomb threats, other forms of abuse or harassment, actual bombings, and other criminal behaviour (such as planned kidnapping) committed largely in the UK but also in Australia, by fathers’ right activists. It also includes some cases where fathers’ rights activists have convictions for domestic violence, although it concentrates on the use of bomb threats and other forms of public violence.

I compiled this collection of news reports using the media database “Factiva”. I searched for relevant items over the period from March 2006 back to mid-2003, and I looked only in newspaper reports (rather than also in radio, television, and other sources). I have copied below the news items I could find about the use of violence by fathers’ rights activists. I have omitted news reports of fathers’ rights actions involving non-violent direct action, such as those by Fathers4Justice in the UK (such as throwing a flour-filled condom at Prime Minister Tony Blair in the British Parliament, scaling Westminster Abbey in April 2006, and so on).

These news reports demonstrate that fathers’ rights groups have used tactics of intimidation and violence, such incidents are well documented, they are being used now rather than only in the past, and at times they have resulted in injuries or deaths.

In the “short version” of this compilation below, I have deleted text from each report that does not pertain directly to the use of violence. In the “long version” below this, I have included the full text for each item. However, I have made no changes to the actual text of these news items.



Howard’s family friendly court pick

Katherine Towers

25 June 2004

Australian Financial Review

[…] In 1980, Family Court Justice David Opas was shot dead in his Sydney home. Four years later, Justice Richard Gee was admitted to hospital after a bomb destroyed his Sydney home.

In July 1984, Pearl Watson, wife of Family Court judge Justice Ray Watson, was murdered when a bomb exploded on the doorstep of their home.


Family Court security ‘at risk’.

By Benjamin Haslem.

15 July 2003

The Australian

[…] Mr Rowley said there was now “a much higher chance of security being compromised” in the Family Court, which has lost two judges to assassination and has been involved in numerous stabbings, shootings and assaults.

[…] In 1980, Family Court judge David Opas was assassinated outside his Sydney home in front of his young family.

Four years later Justice Richard Gee was killed when a bomb exploded at his Sydney home.

A month later a bomb exploded at the Family Court in Parramatta, three months before the wife of Justice Raymond Watson, Pearl, was killed by a bomb at the couple’s Sydney home.

CORRECTIONS - IN an article headlined “Family Court security ‘at risk’’’ on Page 3 yesterday it was reported that the then Family Court judge Richard Gee was killed when a bomb exploded at his Sydney home in 1984. Justice Gee was injured, not killed, and is still alive. The Australian sincerely apologises to Justice Gee, his family and friends for any distress caused by the error. (AUSTLN, 16/7/2003)


Family courts under fire from angry parents and protesters

Jon Robins

11 January 2005

The Times

Jon Robins reports on how Cafcass is coping with some hostile campaigners

THE publicity stunts pulled off by campaiging fathers might make us smile, but the extremes to which some of the more militant protesters go are no joke to the staff of the Child and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

More than 100 hoax bomb warnings were sent to Cafcass offices in one year. The scale of the campaign against the troubled children’s court service was revealed recently in a dossier prepared by the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo).

[…] Over the past few months the campaign against Cafcass has increased. A package containing fish heads, rotting meat and maggots was delivered to the Portsmouth office in September. It was reported in the local press that one protester had said: “We have names and addresses” of Cafcass officers. In October, the following message was left on the answerphone at the Kingston office: “Your days of abusing children and families are numbered - the day of reckoning is at hand.” […]


Law frustrates mothers” desire to tell the other side of story

Maxine Frith

15 September 2004

The Independent

THEY ARE portrayed as scorned women who take out their bitterness over a failed relationship on the innocent fathers of their children.

But for the former partners of men in the Fathers 4 Justice movement, the high-profile protests are a source of frustration and intimidation which leave them no right to reply.

[…] But the women whose former partners have joined F4J are often plunged into an impossible position by the stunts. They are frustrated by what they say is one-sided reporting of their ex-partners” conduct..

If they speak out, they risk breaching court injunctions over naming their children in public - many of the men, including the Batman protester Jason Hatch, circumvent these rules by changing their names.

When details do emerge, it becomes obvious that in many cases, the circumstances are not as clear cut as F4J often portrays them. Mr O”Connor”s former wife Sophie has said - and he has since admitted - that he had affairs, drank heavily and failed to keep to the initial arrangements for access to their children. Another F4J member, Conrad Campbell, told how he was jailed last year for texting his son on his birthday. But he had been sent on an anger management programme for attacking his former partner, and was under a court injunction.

Lawyers who act for the women also tend to refuse media requests for interviews.

Some outspoken solicitors have experienced the more intimidating tactics of the pressure group. The buildings of the Parker Bird law firm in Huddersfield were stormed this year by more than 15 members of F4J, who graffitied the walls. They presented Karen Woodhead, the head of family law, with a golden petrol can, which they claimed represented her firm “pouring petrol on the flames in divorce and childcare cases”.

Last summer, David Burrows, who was head of the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA), was ambushed by a protest outside his home. Kim Beatson, who chairs the SFLA, said: “They claim they are non-violent but they are becoming increasingly militant.” […]


Poor, poor daddy. Nasty old mummy: The tactics now used by estranged fathers can only harm children

Madeleine Bunting:

6 February 2004

The Guardian

The tactics are those of the playground bully. Clever, attention grabbing, even witty: Batman, Robin, Superman and Spider-Man instigated traffic chaos this week in Bristol when they climbed Clifton suspension bridge to protest at the alleged systematic discrimination against fathers wanting contact with their children after divorce. Spider-Man pulled off a similar feat on London’s Tower Bridge last November when he sat in a crane for six days.

But it’s not just macho stunts. Fathers 4 Justice’s tactics are getting more personal and much nastier. A few days ago, they targeted the home of a third female family court judge. Judge Marilyn Mornington was away, so her two sons, 17 and 20, were left to face the demonstrators’ chanted threats. Last summer, there was a wave of 60 hoax bomb attacks on family courts across Britain. […]


Mail bomb hoax alert.

15 August 2003

The Express

UP to 60 packages made to look like letter bombs and chemical or biological booby traps were posted to courts and family law centres yesterday.

At least half were sent to Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service offices.

Many were postmarked locally, suggesting a campaign rather than a lone protester. The packages proved harmless, but Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch is investigating.




231 words

5 January 2005

South Wales Echo

Prominent fathers” rights campaigner Matthew Mudge has a conviction for assaulting his former wife, it emerged today. Mr Mudge, 41, is chairman of the Cardiff branch of Fathers Need Families and a member of the controversial Fathers 4 Justice campaign.

[…] In 1998, Cardiff magistrates were told Mr Mudge denied hitting his wife in their then home in Whitchurch.

Today, he told the Echo he has never made a secret of his conviction, and that all the groups with whom he is involved - including Match: Mothers Apart from Their Children - know of his past.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of because, as I said at my trial, I did nothing wrong,” he said.

“I had never been in trouble with the police before, and I have not been in trouble since. All my friends know that I simply would not have behaved in that way.”

In court, Ilone Mudge, a doctor, accused her husband of punching her after breaking in to their bathroom when she locked herself inside. […]


Welsh Fathers4Justice activist assaulted wife


5 January 2005

The Western Mail

The most prominent campaigner for fathers” rights in Wales has two convictions for assaulting his former wife.

During one of the assaults, which took place seven years ago, Matthew Mudge is alleged to have knocked his then wife unconscious.

Our disclosure comes after a network TV programme claimed several unnamed prominent members of Fathers4Justice had convictions involving domestic violence against their former partners. […]


Protesting fathers are accused of dirty tricks

31 December 2004

Western Daily Press

A West courtroom worker has been branded a “Nazi war criminal” while colleagues face a stream of intimidation from fathers’ rights protesters, it was claimed yesterday.

Probation officers’ union Napo sent Children’s Minister Margaret Hodge a dossier about incidents of verbal abuse and physical threats.

They included more than 100 bomb hoaxes sent to offices of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). It also claimed the names of family court staff had been published on websites, and their offices daubed with graffiti, locks glued, windows broken and banners unfurled on buildings calling them “child abusers”.

In one incident, a large, rotten fish was posted at a Cafcass office and another received a message saying:

“Your days of abusing children and families are numbered - the day of reckoning is at hand.” […]

A Cafcass spokeswoman claimed that Fathers4Justice was among the groups responsible for the intimidation.

She said: “We cannot go ahead like this. All our staff have the right to get on with their jobs without fear of intimidation.

“In the past, intimidating behaviour has been proven to have originated from Fathers4Justice.

“We have had the names of workers in Bristol and Taunton posted on websites.

“Following people down the street calling them child abusers, or saying ‘We know where you live’ is not acceptable.”


Dads’ rights campaigners suspended

8 December 2004

Portsmouth News

TWO Fathers 4 Justice campaigners have been suspended after a News investigation exposed racism, sexism and violence at the heart of the Hampshire branch of the group.

Hampshire co-ordinator Phil Osgood and his right-hand man Paul Robinson could now be thrown out of the fathers’ rights group after our undercover investigation.

Yesterday, after our reporter infiltrated the group for three months, we revealed how Mr Osgood of Beryton Road, Gosport, bragged about threatening his ex-lover’s new boyfriend with a baseball bat and how some members got drunk while on camping trips with their children and called for ‘Pakis’ to be sent back home.

We also revealed how Mr Robinson of Eastern Avenue, Milton, Portsmouth, condoned violence on a woman who stopped a father seeing his child.

Mr Osgood defended his words and actions but Mr Robinson denied making the comments.

But now Fathers 4 Justice’s co-founder, Matt O’Connor, has suspended the pair and launched an inquiry into their behaviour.




25 November 2004

Daily Mail

HOW THINGS change. Just a few weeks ago I wrote an article in which I explained why, as a wife and mother, I passionately supported Fathers 4 Justice. […] But recent heavy-handed, intimidating and downright violent incidents by angry fathers’ rights activists have given me -- and many others -- cause for great concern.

It seems that the so-called ‘fathers’ move-ment’ has adopted similarly distasteful tactics to those used by animal rights protesters.

In doing so, the pressure group is in danger of alienating any moderate supporters it once had. In one of the worst incidents, an angry father poured petrol over a female solicitor’s car engine. If she had started the car, it could have exploded and caused enormous damage and injury.

In August, there was the occupation of Gloucester’s Cafcass (Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Service) office, when superhero- clad Fathers 4 Justice campaigners called the staff there ‘child abusers’ through a megaphone, identifying them by name.

The same office also came under attack when rotting meat and fish were pushed through its letterbox. Fathers 4 Justice has admitted it may have been involved. A senior member of Cafcass staff said: ‘The whole place was stinking for a week, the smell was revolting. And to be called child abusers is deeply insulting for my staff.’

In another unpleasant incident in the Midlands, Fathers 4 Justice activists invaded a Cafcass office and tied up an employee who suffered from a heart condition. Judges, too, have been targeted. Andrew Don, a district judge from Reading, gave a radio interview last month in which he said the law was not biased in favour of the mother, but aimed to serve the best interests of the child.

‘Almost immediately I received all kinds of aggressive e-mails with threats,’ he said. Days later, his office was invaded by ten men from Fathers 4 Justice in decontamination suits. So much for freedom of speech.

CAFCASS court reporters are members of Napo, the National Association of Probation Officers, and the organisation has been so appalled by the threats meted out to its members by militant fathers that it has compiled a dossier of incidents of intimidation. The union is due to present its claims to Government ministers this month.

And so it seems that what began as an earnest and heartfelt campaign is, sadly, now attracting the sort of men who are angry, aggressive and violent. The very men I would hope the courts do keep away from children.

Jason Hatch, the Batman who occupied the Buckingham Palace balcony for six hours in September, has four children by three women, all in relationships which have since foundered.

In January 2002, Hatch appeared at Gloucester Crown Court accused of threatening to kill his then wife Victoria Jones, mother of two of his children. It was ordered that the charges were to lie on file.

Despite this, Fathers 4 Justice refuses to condemn him and he remains one of the campaign’s leading lights.

‘What he said to Victoria was uttered in the heat of the moment during a time when he was very upset and distressed at not seeing his children,’ says the campaign’s leader, Matt O’Connor. Be that as it may, Hatch has subsequently not helped his cause by boasting to an undercover journalist that he has bedded more than 100 women in his life and revealing a worryingly misogynistic streak.

‘I just love ******* women,’ he told the reporter. ‘I’ve had more than 100 one-night stands in the past five years. They are all bitches.’

Matt O’Connor points out that a high number of lovers does not necessarily make a man a bad father. True, but in a battle for the hearts and minds of the British public, such information is hardly likely to boost the Fathers 4 Justice campaign.

The pressure group does have one man convicted of violence among its most high-profile activists. He is deputy leader Eddie Gorecki, 46, who recently scaled the Royal Courts of Justice dressed as Batman. He married his ex-wife, Kelly, in 1988. They have four children together, but it was a relationship marred by violence, so much so that Kelly several times took out injunctions against Gorecki.

In 1995, according to Kelly, he beat her so badly that she suffered two skull fractures and spent five days in intensive care. He later attacked her cousin at a barbecue during a heated family row.

KELLY has said: ‘I ended up dropping the charges. He then beat up my cousin, Shelly. He is a thug and he shouldn’t represent decent fathers.’ Shelly Johnson, Kelly’s cousin, suffered a broken nose and black eyes and didn’t shy away from pressing charges against Gorecki. He was jailed for nine months for affray and assault in June 2001. You would imagine that Fathers 4 Justice would want to distance itself from these violent, dangerous men. But Matt O’Connor refuses to do so.

‘I believe in rehabilitation and righting wrongs,’ he told me yesterday. ‘If a man has done his time and taken his punishment, he should be given another chance. These men can still be loving, devoted fathers. The violence issue is really peripheral to our campaign.’ […]


Fathers ‘terrorise’ lawyers

John Elliott and Abul Taher

21 November 2004

The Sunday Times

Campaigners accused of threats

MEMBERS of Fathers 4 Justice have been accused of inspiring a campaign of violent threats and intimidation against court staff and family lawyers.

A dossier compiled by the union representing family court staff shows its members have been sent fake letter bombs and hate mail, had rotting meat put through an office letter box and been subjected to verbal abuse.

In one of the worst incidents -for which nobody has claimed responsibility -a solicitor found her car engine and headlights doused in petrol, which could have exploded when she started the engine.

Fathers 4 Justice, which seeks to improve fathers’ access to children following marriage break-ups, denies involvement in this incident but admits staging attacks on the offices of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

It denies its members have carried out attacks on individuals. However, the union, Napo, accuses it of leading the campaign against Cafcass staff.

The union, which will present its evidence to ministers this month, claims Fathers 4 Justice and other fathers’ rights groups have in the past year adopted similar tactics to animal rights militants where staff have been “named and shamed” on websites. This is staunchly denied by Fathers 4 Justice.

[…] In one of the most serious attacks, 60 fake bombs were sent to Cafcass offices last year causing buildings to be evacuated and anti-terrorist police brought in to investigate. […]


Workplace Staff targeted in hate campaign.

Shirley Kumar

28 October 2004

Community Care

A small number of fathers’ rights “campaigners” are mounting a hate campaign against the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services.

In the past five months, rotting fish, decomposing meat and live maggots have been posted through the letterboxes of 20 regional offices in England and Wales.

Children and family court reporters have been followed home, received abusive phone calls and had personal property vandalised. Last year, around 100 suspect parcels were posted to regional offices. […]


Police launch investigation as MP targeted in handbills


384 words

15 October 2004

The Northern Echo



(c) 2004 North of England Newspapers.

HUNDREDS of handbills attacking one of the region’s most senior MPs were delivered to homes and businesses across her constituency in a co-ordinated night-time operation.

Police are investigating Tuesday’s leaflet drop, which was branded the work of cowards and bullies by their target, Government Chief Whip and North-West Durham MP Hilary Armstrong.

Over a few hours, residents in an area covering Crook, Wolsingham, Frosterley, Castleside, Lanchester and Langley Park, in County Durham, reported seeing young men in dark suits handing out the unsigned photocopies.

In Wolsingham, they were seen working in pairs in the Market Place at about 8.30pm before a group of six met up and moved to another part of the village.

The literature claimed to be “not from a political party, but from a mother whose family has been destroyed”, and criticised her stance on such issues as homosexuality, drug misuse, domestic violence, foxhunting, rural crime and fathers’ rights. […]


Who’s afraid of the big bad dad? His idea of protest is to harass women and children, dressed in the black shirt of historical oppression. Meet the leader of the extreme wing of the father’s movement. By Julie-Anne Davies.

By Julie-Anne Davies

1,131 words

12 October 2004

The Bulletin

Volume 122; Number 41

[…] Abbott is the charismatic leader of the “Black Shirts”, a disparate group of middle-aged (mainly) men whose demands include repeal of divorce laws and the abolition of the Family Court. Their vigilante tactics - staging demonstrations outside women’s homes dressed in their heavily symbolic black uniforms and masks, and addressing the neighbourhood with megaphones - were last week described by a Victorian County Court judge as grotesque.

The judge’s comments came after Abbott was found guilty of stalking a Melbourne woman who was formerly married to an associate of his. During the trial, the court heard that Abbott and three or four of his masked cohorts staged two protests outside the woman’s home. The group also letterboxed the woman’s neighbours with leaflets that said, among other things, that she was involved in a child-access dispute and described her as a “so-called mother”. None of this impressed Judge Leslie Ross, who, in sentencing Abbott to four months’ jail (suspended for 18 months), equated the Black Shirts’ intimidating attire with European fascist oppression.



Blackshirt gets suspended jail term

Chee Chee Leung

30 September 2004

The Age

The leader of the Blackshirts fathers’ group walked free from court yesterday after receiving a suspended jail term for stalking a divorced mother.

A County Court judge described John Abbott’s conduct as grotesque and frightening, before imposing a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

The 58-year-old was found guilty on Tuesday of stalking the woman in September 2001 by holding two protests outside her eastern suburbs home.

Abbott and three or four other men wore black uniforms and masked their faces with scarves in what the judge described as “quite grotesque” behaviour.

Judge Leslie Ross said the Blackshirts’ intimidating attire was synonymous with European oppression, and led to a “most harrowing and frightening” situation.

He said it was unacceptable and unpardonable that the group used a loudspeaker and named the woman, who was formerly married to an associate of Abbott. The men also distributed leaflets to the woman’s neighbours that said she was in a child-access dispute and described her as a “so-called mother”. […]


Abbott to put shirt on political push

Peter Ellingsen

592 words

3 October 2004

Sunday Age

Last week the law caught up with John Abbott. The leader of the Blackshirts fathers’ group was found guilty in the County Court of stalking, and given a four-month suspended jail sentence. It came two years after Abbott, 58, shocked the city by leading posses of masked men to protest outside the homes of often terrified women. […]


Fathers 4 Justice to disband in wake of kidnapping plot

Jan Melrose

493 words

19 January 2006

THE fathers’ rights campaigner who carried out a flour bomb attack on Tony Blair has condemned a plot to kidnap the Prime Minister’s son.

Ron Davis, from Findon near Worthing, spoke yesterday before Fathers 4 Justice announced it was to disband in the wake of the furore over the alleged plot.

Mr Davis hit the headlines in 2004 when he and Guy Harrison, from Steyning, threw three condoms filled with purple flour over Mr Blair in the House of Commons.

The stunt was to raise awareness of the group’s view that fathers are unfairly treated by family courts.

But the kidnap plan, reported by The Sun newspaper yesterday to have been planned by a group of extremists on the periphery of Fathers 4 Justice, provoked widespread condemnation.

Mr Davis, who has not seen his 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in seven years, said the plot to abduct five-year-old Leo was “horrendous”.

Later last night, the group’s leader Matt O’Connor told Channel 4 News the group could not continue in light of such negative publicity. He said: “I regret to say that three years after starting the organisation, we’re going to cease and bring it to a close.”

However, Terence Bates, of splinter group Real Fathers 4 Justice, insisted they would continue to campaign. He said Mr O’Connor should have wound up his arm of the group a year ago when it split.

[…] Special branch officers uncovered the plot as they investigated ex-members of Fathers 4 Justice expelled from the organisation for extremist behaviour. […]


Family courts under fire from angry parents and protesters

Jon Robins

965 words

11 January 2005

The Times

Jon Robins reports on how Cafcass is coping with some hostile campaigners

THE publicity stunts pulled off by campaiging fathers might make us smile, but the extremes to which some of the more militant protesters go are no joke to the staff of the Child and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

More than 100 hoax bomb warnings were sent to Cafcass offices in one year