A scout hut near the centre of Croydon, Greater London, where this week Home Defence sat in on an extraordinary general meeting organised by divorced father of three Woodrow Bunyip, a man keen to rebrand the discredited ‘guerrilla pressure group’ Fathers4Justice. In future Bunyip intends to send those ranks of disgruntled men who have been at a loose end ever since the initial alliance unravelled, off on a new path of ‘daddy empowerment’ for 2007. “We discussed F4J’s mistakes and reassessed our priorities for almost two hours.” Woodrow told HDUK in an exclusive interview. “Dave, Chas, Mickey, and the lads all agreed that our past dabbling in hate mail, kidnapping, the destruction of property and plastic explosives were a bit over the top, so we’ve decided to abandon those actions which came to characterise the Fathers4Justice campaign, and set ourselves more achievable goals. Rather than being made favoured parent by the courts or getting unlimited access to the kids, our new drive is all about making sons and daughters remember we exist by raising our public profile and petitioning parliament. If my little girl sees me on the telly or spots my picture in the paper once in a while, she might actually remember when my birthday is and pick up the phone.” The original Fathers4Justice crusade against what was branded ‘the institutionalised sexism which discriminates against fathers’ fell apart in early 2006 after months of in-fighting and disagreement over methods. For years the general public had looked on with mounting ambivalence as middle-aged men on benefits declared ‘dads are superheroes in their children’s lives’, then endeavoured to prove it by scaling buildings, running onto Wimbledon centre court, turning public figures purple or pelting MPs with eggs. Unfortunately such madcap juvenilia was quickly overshadowed by the borderline terrorist action of hardline splinter group ‘The Real Fathers4Justice’, a gang of males who got drunk in a Soho pub one day and began to loudly discuss the possibility of abducting the Prime Minister’s baby. The police monitoring these individuals were less than interested in such talk, with one senior officer at the time dismissing the plan as “a lot of pissed talk from one more bunch of loudmouth wankers”. Unfortunately for the RF4J, an Inspector in the vicinity had grown tired of trips up in cranes to arrest paunchy men dressed as Secret Squirrel handcuffed to the tops of famous buildings and subsequently leaked all information the authorities possessed to the media. An alarmist report in The Sun quickly followed, claiming F4J intended to dangle Leo Blair by his leg from a hotel window and then scream the following prepared speech: “Let’s see how you like it Tony! Bet you’re missing your kid now, huh? We’ve been denied access by the system, but we only hit the missus once, and never laid a finger on the kiddies! That Judge didn’t know what he was talking about. We can change, you’ll see! We’ll get jobs, we’ll cut out the booze, we’ll even take our sons to Alton Towers if you can just…. Oh shit. I’ve dropped him. Could you catch the baby please copper? Cheers mate.”
This front-page story precipitated a maelstrom of hatred, anger, and spittle-flecked ignorance from which
Fathers4Justice never recovered, disbanding shamefacedly and shuffling off toward the benefits office, never
to return. That is, until now. As Bunyip explains.
“We pulled off some memorable stunts back in the day, before it all turned nasty and Ron got arrested
for pushing rotten fish through that politician’s letterbox. But where did the campaign get us in the end?
CAFCASS [the Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Service] weren’t listening, not even when
we kidnapped one of their employees. I mean, how was I supposed to know that woman had heart
problems? It didn’t really work, is what I’m getting at. I still have to see my kids in a ‘Contact Centre’ once
a month. So I thought, why not exploit the contacts and network F4J built up to form a new association? One that would adopt a ‘softly softly’ approach, not force its way into the BBC, upsetting floor managers and disrupting the National Lottery draw. Even now we have hundreds of men around the country setting up ‘action groups’ to win back their children’s hearts and minds. It starts when the kids get their first mobile phone at eight years old, then we write letters or run ad campaigns reminding our offspring to call once in a while, thank us for the Christmas presents, ask how we are, and maybe even wish us a Happy Father’s Day.”
The original Fathers4Justice campaign was founded by aggrieved pa Michael O’Connor in 2003, incensed at what he saw as unfair family laws which restrict a male parent’s access to his children following separation or divorce. In the early days there was a
concentration on silly costumes and trespassing, with a bunch of annoyed dads storming the Royal Court of Justice dressed as Father Christmas, ‘Spiderman’ scaling a 120ft crane near Tower Bridge, and John Hatch climbing onto Buckingham Palace roof dressed as Batman. In 2004 F4J threw flour bombs at Tony Blair during Prime Minister’s Question Time, and soon their antics were inspiring the formation of similar groups across America and Canada. Unfortunately progress on F4J’s initial aim - seeing more of their genetic offspring - proved elusive. Indeed, Woodrow Bunyip’s seven year old son recently responded to Home Defence’s questions on his absent father by telling us: “Yes, I remember daddy. He was a fat man with a beard. A different man lives in my house now. Mummy says I have a new daddy.”
But Woodrow is confident about his campaign’s change of direction.
“At Fathers4ChildrenCallingOnceInAWhile we’ve set ourselves up as an official charity and are hoping
to arrange a number of fundraising events come summer. These would include donkey derbies, whist drives,
domino evenings and lovely fetes, all run by so-called ‘deadbeat dads’. We shall endeavour to raise enough
money to fund new initiatives as well; patrols for the edge of restraining order zones, the projection of
daddy’s smiling face onto a range of public monuments, and the taking out of full-page ads in The Beano
pleading with our children not to forget us. This is just the beginning, but our sights remain necessarily low
and now that I’ve downscaled my ambitions, if I’m not a complete stranger to little Billy in five years time I’ll
Meanwhile, for the man who started it all, divorced father-of-two Michael O’Connor, there comes a happy ending. A major film studio recently bought the rights to his autobiography; ‘No Son Of Mine Is Eating Quiche’, and the author is now adapting his book into a screenplay, with reported interest from renowned character actors Sean Bean and Jason Straithairn. We asked Michael what his relationship was like with the children nowadays, to which he responded: “Who? Oh, them. Haven’t seen the kids in a while to be honest. Too busy, you know how it is. Gotta go, I’m late for a three o’clock…”