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Dads condemn lawyers' 'tricks'
22 May 2006
A group of fathers' rights activists in Palmerston North have staged a raucous protest outside lawyers' homes in response to the "anti-male bias" of the Family Court.
The group of four fathers, with family members in tow, stopped to voice their complaints outside the homes of two lawyers and a child psychologist who does work for the Family Court.
A siren blared, fluorescent placards were waved and pamphlets were dropped in letterboxes as their message of disgust aired over a loudspeaker.
Around 11.30am on Saturday the barrage began outside lawyer Fergus Steedman's home.
Mr Steedman was not home at the time and the first he knew of the protest was when told yesterday by The Dominion Post.
Mr Steedman said he now did little Family Court work.
Asked whether he felt it was appropriate to be targeted in this way, Mr Steedman said: "I only have your word I was".
Holding a bright pink sign that read "too many lawyers use dirty tricks", organiser Bruce Tichbon lambasted Family Court lawyers for putting their income above families' interests and called for judges to be accountable and for fathers to be treated as equal parents.
"There's a genuine belief that fathers are second-class parents so mothers normally get custody of the children. There's fighting over matrimonial property and guys are prevented from seeing their children for years. This industry that profits from mothers and fathers fighting does not have the incentive to stop that happening," he said.
He also attacked comments made by Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier who called activists "disgruntled fathers" following protests outside judges' homes and the High Court in Auckland two weeks ago.
"He's run to ground and won't talk to the media. He's trying to shut these protests down with silence," Mr Tichbon said.
Mr Tichbon apologised to the neighbours but said the protest had to be done.
"It takes a hell of a lot to get Kiwi blokes off their arse and on the street but it's happening," he said.
At the second address, the home of child psychotherapist Kay Thomson, father Paul Robertson said he was a victim of "parental alienation" and that spinster Ms Thomson knew nothing about having a family.
Some passing cars blew their horns and a woman taxi driver pulled over to lend her support. Mr Robertson, who arrived with his leukaemia-afflicted mother, said he had gone 14 years without seeing his daughter since he and his wife separated.
"When we broke up I lost it, breaking windows in the house. But I've never hit anyone in my life," he said.
Now remarried with another young daughter, he had successfully defended two protection orders against him.
"I just want my daughter to meet her grandmother who is dying of leukaemia ... and meet her half-sister," he said.
He complained that the court had accepted a report about him from Dr Thomson when she had never even met him.
Dr Thomson said she had no idea why she had been singled out. As a child psychotherapist she had done reports for the Family Court but no longer did so. She found the protest "a little upsetting".
Dr Thomson said her evidence to the Family Court had always been subject to cross-examination and opposing counsels always had the option of seeking another report.
While two of the targets' addresses were in the phonebook, Mr Steedman's required "a litte bit of resourcefulness" to find, Mr Robertson said.
At the third address, the home of lawyer Tony Thackery, neighbours closed their windows as the horns and megaphones blared.
But one local resident said: "They're obviously really angry and if this helps them deal with it, I don't mind the disturbance."