Fathers' group axed amid furore

THE fathers' rights group linked to an alleged plot to kidnap Tony's Blair's youngest son Leo is to disband in the wake of the furore over the affair, its Suffolk founder announced last night.

THE fathers' rights group linked to an alleged plot to kidnap Tony's Blair's youngest son Leo is to disband in the wake of the furore over the affair, its Suffolk founder announced last night.

Fathers 4 Justice had earlier said the group was suspending its activities pending an inquiry into the allegations.

The group's leader Matt O'Connor, from Cavendish, announced last night that the group could no longer continue in light of the negative publicity generated by the allegations.

He said: "I regret to say that three years after starting the organisation we're going to cease and bring it to a close."


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It was claimed that extremist sympathisers with the group had discussed kidnapping five-year-old Leo Blair.

Mr O'Connor said "extremists' had "undermined the position and credibility' of an organisation that had been going along "nicely'.

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"What these people are doing is undermining the very good work that people in this organisation have done.'

He "categorically' denied he had handed the information to a national newspaper as part of infighting within the Fathers 4 Justice group, which he insisted had been "responsible for some of the most spectacular stunts the country has seen in years'.

"I'm proud of the work we've done but if we're going down this road with extremist elements then it's come to an end.'

Mr O'Connor said: "I want to get a good night's sleep. This is not what I wanted. I don't want to be associated with an organisation getting headlines like this.'

The group expelled 30 people last year in a bid to get rid of extreme elements, according to Mr O'Connor, but it had not stopped problems.

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.

Asked whether the campaign had failed because it had not brought about any changes in family law, Mr Bates said: "Mr O'Connor has failed. He failed to move it forward. Many many good people left last year and formed our splinter group.'

He said they planned to engage in "more political dialogue' from now on.

Mr Bates also claimed the idea of a "dark underbelly' in the campaign was a "myth'.

"Most fathers in this situation, the last thing they would like to see is something of this nature.'

Founded in December 2002, Fathers 4 Justice was the first of its kind to stand up and fight against the “injustice” of children growing up without seeing their fathers.

Within just a few months, it escalated into a successful pressure group, leaving people with no choice but to sit up and take notice.

But it wasn't long before vigilante 'members' took campaigning to the next level - the severity of which was worlds away from the peaceful intentions of Mr O'Connor's dream.

Speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times in November, he said: “If I knew what I know now, I would not have started the group up, because the personal costs to me, both emotionally and financially, have been immense,” he said.

“We exist to act as a positive force of change, but there are all manner of groups calling themselves Fathers 4 Justice, who have nothing to do with us whatsoever.”

Some of the most notable and spectacular stunts have included purple flour being hurled at Tony Blair in the House of Commons, a five-hour roof-top demonstration on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and a man wearing a Spiderman outfit to scale the London Eye.

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