Rosys speech at the conference today….5
My parents separated in 2000 when I was 2 years old and once the courts had got involved, I was only allowed to see my Dad for four days a month. I had to wait another 6 years before I was allowed to talk to my Dad on the phone- and that was only for 10minutes on a Wednesday evening between 5.30 and 6. My own Dad. Could he not just pop round and ask me how my day was? … No… It was not his time. When I was at my mums it was like I was not his daughter anymore because he wasn’t allowed to be my Dad.
It was all on paper, in writing, in court orders – my life being controlled like some kind of computer game.
From the beginning of the court proceedings, my Dad witnessed the unjust and damaging system of the secret family courts. By 2001 he had met other fathers denied access to their children, just like him and began campaigning to bring this corruption to the public eye. I remember thinking how funny my Dad was climbing buildings. I must have been very small, but I was very proud of him. I encouraged him to wear his Robin suit because I thought the R stood for Rosy, and every time there was a protest or march, I loved the excitement and wanted to go.
I remember talking about my Dad at my mums and her crying and crying. I did not want to upset her, so from a young age, I tried not to speak of him. I felt I had to be careful about everything I said in case it was used to hurt either of my parents in court or cause any stress. I was so confused, but I couldn’t talk to anyone. Who should I believe? Should I be afraid of my Dad because my mum seems to be? Everyone seemed to be against my Dad, everyone but me. This became embarrassing. At primary school, I won an award for doing well and because my mum would not be in the same hall as my Dad, I had to have two assemblies. I had to stand in front of my school and receive the same award twice. I hated that I had to have special measures.
For years, every time I went to his house, my mum had to bring the police along too. She claimed she was scared of my Dad, that he was dangerous, even though I knew he wasn’t. As a young child I thought this was really funny, giggling to my Dad, ‘mummy’s brought the police along again’. But one day when they arrived, I told him that it wasn’t funny anymore because ‘police only come for bad people’. I don’t remember why my view was suddenly different- perhaps my mum was unhappy that I was laughing at a situation she took so seriously and this changed my mind.
When I was about 4 years old my mum went on holiday to America. She had originally told my Dad he could have me for this time, but later retracted this ‘offer’ to spite him after a court hearing she was clearly upset by. My mum should not have been allowed to use me as a weapon like this, as a possession she could hurt my Dad with. But while she was away, I stayed with him anyway because there was no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to. During this time, police came round to our house and tried to take me away. I was with my Dad, yet I was on the missing persons list.
My dad refused that they take me, and so they insisted they must check me for any signs of abuse. So, he got me out of the bath, where I was clearly happy, singing away, to be checked for any bruises or indications of harm. In front of me, his four year old daughter, they treated my Dad like some kind of criminal. The police officers did then leave, but after this, my mum’s solicitor said she thought the police should have ‘forcibly’ removed me from my Dad’s house. I have this in writing. This is not a solicitor trying to help achieve a working family unit or serve in the child’s best interests.
In 2006, when my Dad went to court to win the right to talk to me over the phone, he bought me a mobile so we could chat in the allocated 10 minutes between 5.30 and 6 on a Wednesday evening. A short time later, it came up in court that he sent ‘too many kisses’ on texts to me; that he was obsessive and wanted to see me too much. This made me furious!
As my Dad’s campaigning became of higher profile, things changed; everyone was out to get him. Our door had always been open and friends from our street would come to our house and play with me. But the police and CSA turned a knock at our front door into a stressful matter, so it was then always locked and our curtains were closed in case anyone came to the house. For years, I couldn’t sleep without holding his thumb. I was scared people would come in the night and take me away. Even when I fell asleep, I would still hold it tight. The police raided our home and the CSA sent bailiffs on the basis that my Dad rightly refused to fund me through my mum. They took our computer, pictures I had drawn for him and his driving licence away. They are meant to financially support children; however, they had no concern for how this might have affected me. This made life even more difficult as my mum’s parents picked me up from Dads and drove me to school on the alternate Monday morning. This was very uncomfortable for me as even speaking of my Dad’s name at my mum’s house caused awkwardness and upset, something I was very anxious to avoid.
On one occasion, I was about eight years old and my Grandma came to pick me up. I was tired of the hatred between the two sides of my family and I told her I didn’t want to go with her. Dad reassured her he would get me to school somehow. Minutes later, the police rang my dad wondering why I was not at school. They were constantly on his case, making him out to be some irresponsible father in need of supervision. This made me so angry and so I told my Dad I wanted to go down to our local police station and talk to them.
Once there, I completely emptied my thoughts and feelings out to a police lady telling her that I wanted to see more of my Dad. She managed to twist around everything I said; undermine me; make my Dad look bad. She only replied to say something along the lines of “You only want that because you have lots of fun weekends with him.” Eventually I burst into tears in the police station. “Why won’t anyone just listen to me!?” I cried at her. I felt so small, humiliated and useless. I was in pain. We were all in this hell of the family courts and I didn’t have a voice. Before we left the station, she promised me she would get me a counsellor to talk to. She never did this. In fact, she stirred more trouble by contacting my mum and passing on what I had said to her in confidence that day.
I was taught again, from those who claim to work in my best interests, who I should have been able to trust, that in fact I was not to trust anyone. I was told that I was important yet nobody listened to me. I was told that my feelings mattered yet my screaming voice was silent. I loved my Dad and wanted to be with him yet I was treated as though I did not deserve a father.
In an interview with two Plymouth Cafcass officers, I told them I wanted to see more of my Dad. They questioned how this would make my mum feel. This shocked me but I told them honestly that it would probably upset her. It followed by them asking me how I felt about upsetting my mum. They should have been impartial. I should not have been put in this position where I was made to feel ashamed for my feelings. I did not want to hurt anyone, but this wasn’t about that. It was about what was right, how I should have been brought up, and from the beginning, it should have been equally, with both parents. After, I was in the waiting room outside, and I could hear my mum crying in her interview next door. I immediately thought they had told her what I had said and I felt really guilty. Even after this upsetting interview, they twisted my words and lied in court about my wishes. This government organisation say they work in the ‘child’s best interests’ yet have no evidence to support this claim. It’s no surprise that ofsted have repeatedly found this service to be inadequate – like the whole secret family court system, everything is about money and power and they’ll abuse our human rights until they have this.
They turned everything into such a war. The courts turned my parents against each other, using me to break my own family and they did it oblivious of my feelings. I was caught in the middle every time and I hated this. There were two sides and I wanted to be on both. As much as I loved my brothers, my mum, my Dad, I felt like I was the one hurting them and if I wasn’t there anymore they would have no reason to go to court. I couldn’t see any other way out. I wanted to be with my Dad. I needed to be. It wasn’t a feeling I could control. He was my Dad. What was so wrong with that?
The entire justice system is sexist. After separation, 93% of the time, children are made to live with their mother on the basis of gender. Women are treated more sympathetically and leniently than men. For example, after arrest, women are more likely than men to be cautioned rather than charged, they are less likely to be fined or sentenced to prison and woman sent to prison receive shorter sentences than men. Within most cases, as well as my own, all positive points from the mother are taken into account, along with all the negative points of the father. If a mother turns up to court crying, she has been emotionally abused. If a father brings proof of counselling reports, doctor’s notes, evidence of depression, his plea is ignored. I cannot emphasise enough, how biased our so called ‘justice system’ is. The definition of domestic abuse has no borders and petty, insignificant things are warped to separate good, loving fathers from their children, just like I was. Think of all the women’s help services, but have you ever seen any for men?
In 2008, my Dad was sentenced to prison for his campaigns against our corrupt system. People may say the actions of Fathers 4 Justice are extreme, but you have got to understand that they were in extreme circumstances and in the hell of the family courts; you are not heard unless you make it impossible to be ignored. Did they really think sending him to prison would make him give up fighting for me? This is clearly what they wanted. It was just my Dad fighting for my rights to a father, not the criminal he was labelled as.
Whilst in prison, he missed my 10th birthday, my piano exam, and our weekends together. This broke me that little bit more. Feeling hopeless hit me again and again. I couldn’t believe it was still happening, and that it had come to this. How could those twisted, lying people possibly have the reason to lock my Dad away? How dare they deny me my father? How dare they not listen to me when they all say they work in “the child’s best interests”! I had always been a case number, a pay cheque, a child to be won by a parent. The family courts are a battle, not a justice system.
They are breaking families for a reason. It builds the economy. In 2003, the family justice system cost the taxpayer £426 million. By 2011, it cost £800 million and it will rise. Dividing families means that there are now two cars, two houses and two sets of bills. The government does this because ‘happy families’ make no money for them. Think of all the businesses and profit made from the gruelling process of the family courts: counsellors, social workers, barristers, solicitors… All fuelling the scheme to weaken the people and create more need for such professions. Imagine the expense of loans fathers pay to have the best court representation, however still, they walk out of court unable to see their much loved, much missed, children.
When my Dad was out of prison, another Cafcass officer came from London, to talk to me and look into my family. There were meetings with me at my mum’s house, at my Dad’s house, with my parents separately, and with me alone at school. I stressed for ages over my room at my Dads. I was so worried how he would judge it. I knew how they looked for the smallest things that could be used against us. What if it was too tidy, looked unnatural, and he could make out that I wasn’t comfortable at our house? Or that it was too messy, that my Dad wouldn’t discipline me; that our weekends were just for fun? I knew their tricks, and as a child, I should not have had the stress of this. I understood now, that they all had ulterior motives behind their kind words and sympathetic smiles… I was so nervous when he came. It’s such a terrifying thought that just that mere hour or so could mean so much. He would decide what was to be done with my life – again, MY LIFE, in the hands of some alien person.
In our interview together at school, I made sure I made my feelings extremely clear. At age 5 when I was interviewed, I said I wanted to see my Dad. They ignored this, saying that I was too young to know what I wanted. But I know if I’d have said I wanted to stay with my mum that day, they’d have acted on it. I wonder if I would have seen my Dad again. Looking back, I think that my Dad going to prison really shook me. I wasn’t just hurting anymore, I was angry. This was the turning point, and I realised I wasn’t going to let this carry on. I told the officer that if he didn’t listen this time, I would run away. I told him exactly how I felt, the disgusting way I’d been treated and demanded that he listen to me. He could not blur my words. He could not ignore me. I had to put this man in a compromising situation by threatening my safety. It should not have taken this for my voice to be heard.
Following these interviews, the hearings were finally working in my favour. And in August of 2009, I was granted shared care and equal residency with my Dad!
We had an alternate week arrangement and I would swap between mum and Dad on a Friday after school. My holidays were split right down the middle and even today, this is still how I live between my parents and it’s worked so well.
When everything began to settle down, my Dad began to get involved in my school life, we helped out more on our friend’s farm and saw our family often. I hardly knew my family on my Dads side because there had never been enough time to see them all in the 4 days a month allocated to my Dad for all those years. I started to sleep better at night and I became more confident. I noticed the change in myself. Life was how it should have been, from the very start. But 9 years?! It took 9 years to be able to be with my Dad. 9 years of precious time we will never get back.
After, my parents seemed to get on almost as if nothing had happened which confirmed how much of a set up the whole thing had been. The lies and other excuses had been only as a kind of ammunition to defeat my Dad and make him look bad – not fit to be my parent. Talking to my mum about this, she tells me this is what her solicitors told her to do.
What a waste of time. What unnecessary pain. At home my Dad has about 3 suitcases of paperwork. Was that in the interest of me?… or were people just making money out of me?
It is a corrupt system that is filling our societies with a generation that is damaged and hurt, unveiling crime, chaos and anger onto our streets. Prisons are swelling with young offenders, over 70% of which come from lone-parent families. A child needs both of their parents. Fathers play key roles in developing a child’s confidence, self-control and self-esteem. Without this, how do you expect them to behave? Fatherless boys are twice as likely to be excluded from school and girls 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant in their teens. Britain has the highest level of self-harming in Europe. It is proven that children brought up by both of their parents are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, and to achieve grades 43% higher than other students. But still, family courts push 200 children a day through heart-wrenching family court battles.
I still cry myself to sleep sometimes remembering how horrible I felt and still trying to understand everything that happened. It’s so hard to deal with, because they didn’t have a right to do what they did to me. And there was nothing I could do to stop what was happening to me and my Dad.
I have so many questions to ask. I have written to Cafcass, the CSA, the Nspcc, and to judge David Tyzack but nobody cares. I have asked them why they hurt me and why they are hurting others still and I have asked for apologies. They come up with excuses or don’t even reply. I have even been threatened with harassment by my own police service for writing to the judge and even after all the trouble he caused my family.
When I wrote to Cafcass, they would not take any responsibility for what they put me through. I requested my case files from them in hope of figuring it out myself and gaining an understanding of how it worked. But I could not have been more disappointed when I received the folder, the writing on the pages covered in blacked out lines. There literally wasn’t anything I could read that made sense. On a page, there were only a few words as all else was deemed confidential and blacked out.
The NSPCC say they prevent cruelty to children yet when I told them about my story, they would not comment on other government organisations so would not do anything when I was crying for their help. How do they expect to end the abuse on children if they refuse to stop the source of the problem?
All of these organisations are protecting each other. Their aims are the same. Even the police are puppets of this system. I thought when my case finished in 2009, I could move on from everything I’d been through, but it doesn’t go. The things that have happened to me, I can never forget. And all those things I felt are never far away. It sickens me to think that so many children are put through the same pain as I was. I want to end the abuse on children in the family courts. I have decided to use my experience. Fight back. Be the voice I never had. Thank you. Rosy Stanesby age 17