I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fathers 4 Justice campaigner 'elated' at court result

Thursday, August 20, 2009, 15:00

20 readers have commented on this story. Click here to read their views.

A FATHERS' rights campaigner who was jailed for his high-profile stunts has finally resolved an eight-year legal battle over access to his daughter.

Jonathan 'Jolly' Stanesby has hit the headlines for handcuffing himself to MPs, scaling American monuments and ultimately serving a prison sentence in his fight for joint custody of his ten-year-old.

Now, crippled by debt and "emotionally drained" from the gruelling legal process, the 39-year-old, from Ivybridge, has told The Herald his amazing story.

He described himself as "elated" by this month's court result, but hit out at the "oppressive" system which he says forced him to take such drastic action through the high-profile Fathers 4 Justice campaign.

Jolly said: "I've only ever asked for one thing: to be able to see my daughter.

"I'm obviously elated but I'm also very bitter about the whole experience. It destroys your life.

"Our system is not working, it's completely and utterly discriminatory and for me it's been a war against that bureaucracy since 2001."

Earlier this month, Jolly and his ex-partner issued an agreed statement stating that they had reached a shared care arrangement agreement which had been approved by a judge.

A founding member of Fathers 4 Justice, Jolly's fight for awareness has seen him climb monuments such as Stonehenge in fancy dress, sleep in cranes for a week and even handcuff himself to former children's minister Margaret Hodge.

Finally, after spending 24 hours on deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman's roof last June dressed as a superhero, he was hit with a two-month prison sentence.

The registered childminder, who had never been in trouble with the law until his custody battle began, ended up sharing a cell in Wormwood Scrubs with an international drug-smuggler and a man convicted of a stabbing.

He said the long battle had left him cynical, untrusting and angry.

"It was as though I was locked up for wanting to see my daughter," Jolly said. "She is now living with me half of the time and she's chuffed to bits – it's what we've always wanted.

"But it's left me completely emotionally drained.

"I'm still paying fines, I'm still in debt, I don't trust anybody and I'll probably never be able to go back to the work I loved now I've been to prison."

Jolly said police had visited his house in Manor Close more than 80 times, twice raiding his home and carting away his computer to gather intelligence.

He said: "Before this I had no criminal record, no involvement with the police whatsoever. But I've now been arrested and also suffered broken ribs and other injuries.

"I had my driving licence taken away and police were watching me all the time.

"I felt constantly targeted, like they were waiting for me to slip up.

"Every time I went to London two uniformed police officers would follow me everywhere, even into the toilet.

"When they raided my house they took everything, even pictures my daughter had done for me.

"But they brought it all back because I had nothing to hide.

"It was so emotionally crushing.

"I've felt like giving up many times but you're in a situation where you can't give up – it's your child."

Jolly said he had received dozens of letters of support from across the globe while in jail at Wormwood Scrubs and HMP Wandsworth, where supporters gathered outside to protest at his sentence.

He also spent a night in an American cell, chained at the feet after being arrested by an armed SWAT team when he scaled the iconic Lincoln Memorial to unveil a banner in 2007.

"I have feared for my life," Jolly admitted. "I was chased by the FBI when I went to New York to shut down the Brooklyn Bridge.

"They think differently out there – they told me if I didn't comply they would be forced to shoot me.

"They said it would make their jobs easier if myself, and another protester I was with, went with them to see the sights and went to restaurants and clubs so we did – they treated us like royalty and paid for everything.

"They said we were thought to be the biggest threat to New York at that moment; we had nine men on us.

"But Fathers 4 Justice has always been a non-violent organisation."

The stunts began just after Jolly and his ex-partner separated in 2000, with his daughter less than two years old.

He wanted greater access to his child and began the gruelling battle for shared residence.

He said: "I had a spacious house, I had great references, I was a registered childminder and I'd been helping in the nursery.

"I was the perfect picture of a dad.

"Then I went to court for the so-called final hearing and I felt I was completely and utterly humiliated.

"I was so angry – I left it a week then I climbed onto the Plymouth Courts' roof.

"I was overwhelmed by the response and it just snowballed from there – I had to get the message out there.

"But it wasn't really until I was in prison that I realised how much people are watching."

Jolly first hit the headlines when he staged a protest from the cab of a 100-foot crane in Exeter in 2003.

Then he took his campaign to the capital, proceeding to scale the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

He also staged a Christmas protest on Tower Bridge, took up residence on the Tamar Bridge, gatecrashed the Queen's Birthday Parade and stormed family law conferences with other activists.

At the height of Father 4 Justice's notoriety, the group was even falsely accused of plotting to kidnap then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's son – an accusation that still angers Jolly.

Now, despite securing shared residence of his daughter Jolly is determined to keep fighting for other fathers in the UK and beyond.

He said: "It's not about what you miss out on as a parent, it's what your child misses out on.

"Something like 280,000 cases went through the family courts last year and thousands more dads can't afford to take it that far.

"For years they had taken men out one by one and we'd never had a voice, but we've set the wheels turning now and I don't regret a single thing, even prison.

"The only thing I do regret is the fact I've had to go through it.

"It seems to be guilty until proven innocent for dads in the family courts – and it really hurts.

"For a father it starts with being out of the family home, then he has to apply to see his children, then the CSA starts contacting him for money and then most give up.

"Then he's made financially impaired – and on top of that he's emotionally drained."

Jolly said his own legal bills had run into tens of thousands of pounds, while the legal process took up so much of his time that he was forced to give up childminding and working for a local architects' firm.

His finances were hit so hard he was forced to give up land near Kingsbridge where he had been rearing sheep and, eventually, he had take up Legal Aid and claim benefits.

Jolly admits he found hard to cope with at times.

"You are constantly depressed," he said. "It takes over your life.

"In the end I couldn't work anymore and I've had counselling because I couldn't cope.

"I don't want to be out of work – I want to be a childminder and even foster children.

"But I couldn't give up the fight, how could a dad not want to see his daughter?

"Financially, it's the days in court, it's paying for parking, it's making phone calls to the solicitors – even ink for your printer all adds up.

"It can grind you down and make you give up.

"I know a number of people who have had to sell their houses and move back in with their parents after spending £50-60,000 on legal fees."

Half a dozen boxes packed with legal documents are testament to his eight-year battle, which has seen 23 separate agencies and hundreds of members of their staff take on the case.

Jolly is convinced the system is in place to keep people in work – not to benefit the children who have to go through the struggle.

He added: "Society's biggest asset is children.

"But it doesn't work in the interest of the child, it works in the interest of the resident parent, which is the mother in 97 per cent of cases.

"I think it's an oppressive system, but it employs a hell of a lot of people.

"At the end of the day it's all about money; a broken family causes big business, whereas a happy family doesn't.

"Children need stability and they need both parents in their lives.

"Research has proved that children without both parents are more likely to fall into gangs, crime, drugs, everything.

"One thing I found in prison was people were in there for things that mostly stemmed from family matters.

"A child like my daughter, who has seen eight years of this, is bound to be affected by it forever. How can she not be?"

Jolly, who reformed the group as New Fathers 4 Justice after one of its founding members left, is determined to take the campaign to other countries such as the US, where he says dads have similar difficulties.

He is currently in discussions with numerous other organisations about ways to take the campaign forward.

But he said that, for now, he is looking forward to finally being a dad again.

He added: "When you're cut off by the courts you're cut off from their school life, their friends, everything.

"I have a lot of catching up to do.

"My daughter can't wait to spend time with me, and she can't understand the system either – even at her age.

"It's the little things that I'm elated about now, like I've been able to get her a phone so we can talk whenever we want.

"She's very artistic, she plays the piano, does paintings and she loves animals.

"With Fathers 4 Justice, I don't want to see something I've started go to pieces so for that reason I'll continue.

"But my family comes first – that was always the reason in the first place."


  • All well and good as long as he is financially supporting the child!!!!!
    K, PLYM
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 17:11
  • I know Jolly and his daughter and from my knowledge of his case his daughter had to threaten to do what my three daughters actually did to be with me - run away to him. At that point the Family Courts simply cave in and give the child what he/she wants, as in Jolly's case and as in mine too. The family courts are corrupt to the core; they ignore all mothers' breaches of contact orders, refuse to enforce any orders for the Dad, accept all false allegations made against the father without any evidence and refuse to pay any attention to what the children want until they either threaten to take the law into their own hands, or as my kids did, actually just take the action for themselves. I went to court 133 times over ten years to see my kids, but the day they ran away a Judge simply FAXED a residence order to my house and that was it, all over. It cost the taxpayer in excess of One Million Pounds because no one wanted to hear what they were saying. That was now over six years ago and they all still live with me. Family courts operate in secret, so these appalling CAFCASS/Social Worker/Child experts can corrupt the process while the Judges simply let it happen. Make no mistake, thousands and thousands of child experts, Solicitors and Barristers are making an absolute fortune out of the bias and corrupt Family Courts who refuse to follow the intentions of the Children Act 1989, that Shared Residence becomes the norm when families break up. If these cases were properly dealt with at the point of family breakdown, that being every child will spend quality amounts of time with each parent unless very good reason exists to prevent it-and enforced where necesary-then all these leeches living off of parents misery would be made redundant, and that's why they do not support the Children Act's intent. Mark Harris, author, Family Court Hell
    Mark Harris, Plympton
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 17:01
  • Jolly: Only another dad in the same boat as you knows the love and passion for his child that causes us to want to change the system and do things in protest we would never have contemplated. An unjust system that needs reform requires men of your strength and resolve to change it as few others, like Nick from Plymouth have the gonads. As a fellow member of the international movement of F4J I salute one of the greatest achievements of a persons life - to regain parenthood of your child after having it removed arbitrarily and without evidence. We will continue to strive to get the system changed to treat parents equally and fairly from the beginning.
    Mike Murphy, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 17:00
  • Congratulations Jolly. It's been a long hard fight and finally you've won. You deserve it.
    Martin, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:52
  • as a little girl growing up a part of me was missing , part of my identity , i never even knew what my dad looked like ... i wish my dad had done what jolly did then i would have grown up feeling loved and wanted yes some women are awful my mom was to my dad x
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:47
  • Well done for your perseverence. You never hear the other side of it though do you. The thousands of kids who desperately want their dad to be part of their life but they can't be bothered, or have started a new family. There is no court order that can be made in those circumstances. My heart goes out to all those kids and to those mums that want a bit of support (and I am not suggesting financial but that wouldn't go amiss either). Best wishes
    Anon, Cornwall
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:42
  • congratulations on the outcome of your mission, its a pity that being a father was kept from you, it doesnt take courts to tell you that you are a father. pity the mother didnt realise this sooner?good to have both loving parents involved even if not together? well done..
    plyMOUTH, plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:38
  • I wonder if Jollys daughter will have much respect for her mother after what he has had to do just to see her and be her father , its discgrace how women can do that
    eugene, lipson
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:30
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:22
  • As a father myself i just want to say how i adore Jollys bravery. This an inspiring story for any dad , its a shame there isnt more decent people in the world like him .Your heart is in the right place , well done
    eugene, lipson
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:21
  • well done jolly from all of us you so deserve it a very genuine , caring supportive man xx
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:18
  • 'bout time. hurray for Jolly and his daughter! bunches of love and respect from the USA. time for all fit parents to have equal custody. shared parenting works. teri stoddard examiner.com
    teri stoddard, california, usa
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  • commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:16
  • Nick, just a quick note but Jolly did these stunts not through fun but because it was the only way ANYONE would listen to his side of things, those "stunts" have helped him gain joint residancy of his child who he's had little or no contat with for 8 years? Don't see you telling the mother her child, flesh and blood, is not a weapon to be used in a family split. No we don't know what went on behind closed doors so we can't make a judgement either way.
    Shell, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:15
  • Nick Plymouth, he opened a can of worms and has exposed the disgusting system, he is a hero to anyone in the know, as you are obviously clueless to the very sinister Social Services and Family Courts, lets hope and pray that when they come for your kids (and they're coming)that Mr Jolly will still be available to offer you advice on how to get them back, as you are fored to "voluntarily" hand them over...
    SSarepureevil, Midlands
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:14
  • The way the Family Courts work is an affront to the legal system. The only group of people who win in the end are the solicitors and barristors who try to make as much cash as they can by by making a living out of other peoples misfortunes. I find it quite unbelievable that Judges, appointed to uphold the dignity of the courts and to ensure a fair hearing of all, should wish to get involved in a system that is discredited and shameful. I wonder why? Congratulations Jolly. Your courage in fighting the system has been a revalation.
    plymptonjohn, plympton
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:13
  • Jolly, congratulations and well done. You have proved to not only the courts but to your daughter how much this has meant to you. We all at some stage giggled at you on roofs and thought you were mad, but it has all paid off and the biggest winner is your daughter, one very proud little girl. Shame not all fathers want as much to do with their offspring as you do. Dont give up on Fathers 4 Justice as there are many men out there in your situation, give them hope. :)
    Shell, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:11
  • Absolutely thrilled for you both. When so many Mums moan about absent fathers, why didn't the ex-wife bring this to a close sooner - for the absolute sake of her daughter? What a credit you are Jolly!
    Bemused, The Hoe, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:05
  • I personally think the blokes a prat, I wouldn't want any child of mine having anything to do with a father who pulled the stupid stunts he did, how embarrassing for the poor child. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors and all credit to the mother for keeping a dignified silence. Above all though, alls well that ends well. :)
    nick, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:03
  • Good luck to Jolly and all the other dad's out there who have been ground down and dismissed as unimportant to families. Latest reports show that dad's are more important in young boy's lives than mum's, the lack of fathers' influences has lead to the gang culture. Government policy and the courts have inflicted dangerous streets on the population by tearing apart families.
    Suzzy, UK
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 16:00
  • Not only justice for Jolly but his daughter too.
    Mr Justice, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 15:55
  • Well done! That's the spirit, never give in. I have two young daughters. Thankfully my relationship with Mrs Big Gay Larry is fine, for now. But who knows what the future holds. I for one have the utmost respect for this man, even on the days when I got to work late because he occupied the bridge. He only wanted to see his daughter, but was prevented by a punitive ex partner. Was that really too much to ask?
    Big Gay Larry, Saltash.
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 15:49
  • Justice for Jolly at last.
    Mr Justice, Plymouth
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    commented on 20-Aug-2009 15:18

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