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Ten-year hell is over for a loving father



 
 
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  #1  
Old June 22nd 03, 10:51 PM
Max Burke
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Ten-year hell is over for a loving father

Ten-year hell is over for a loving father
http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/st...982508,00.html

Email:
Fax: +44 (0)207 713 4250/4286

The Observer
Sunday June 22, 2003

" Ten-year hell is over for a loving father "
After going to jail, a hunger strike and 130 court appearances, Mark
Harris finally has his family back

By Amelia Hill

Mark Harris has made 130 court appearances in 10 years, before 33
judges. He has picketed judges' houses and spent more than three months
in jail.

His crime? He wanted access to his three young daughters. Last week, in
a ruling seized on by an army of militant fathers, Harris learnt that he
had triumphed.
'The last decade has been absolute hell and devastation,' said Harris, a
driving instructor from Devon, in an exclusive interview with The
Observer. 'My kids have missed their father being part of their
childhood and I've missed watching them grow.'

His battle has become a cause célèbre for divorced and separated fathers
who claim their relationships with their children have been torn apart
by a legal system that is automatically prejudiced against them.
Harris's nightmare began in 1993, when his wife of 10 years left the
family home with their children as he was watching a football match in a
local pub. The girls were two, four and six at the time. 'I still saw my
children, dropping them off at school and picking them up most days,
like I'd always done,' he said.

But the arrangement deteriorated and Harris's visits were blocked. The
situation improved in 1994 after a court granted him unrestricted
access, but by October 1996 the girls complained that they weren't
getting on with their mother's new partner and asked to live with their
father.
After this request, all access with Harris was severed by the court. He
appealed, but the earliest date a hearing was granted was the following
April.

'In the meantime, I wasn't allowed anywhere near my children,' he said.
'I was reduced to standing on the corner when they were being driven to
school so I could wave at them. It was the only way I could let them
know I still existed and be sure that they were still all right.'
When the case came to court, Harris found that his former wife had
complained that his attempts to maintain contact constituted harassment.
The judge set an injunction preventing him from 'harassing, pestering or
upsetting' his ex-wife and froze all contact between him and his
children until a new hearing in July.

When the case came back to court, the judge accepted that the 'deep
wishes of three intelligent girls' was to have contact with their
father. Yet, in a 65-page judgment, he found that Harris's former wife
had been left with a 'feeling of being stalked and harassed' by his
attempts to contact his children, and jailed him for four months.
When Harris was released after 45 days, he determined to keep to the
letter of the law, but then his children contacted a mutual friend and
asked him to ring them. 'They didn't understand why I had dropped all
contact. What was I supposed to do?'

Because Harris replied to his children's request, when the case came
back to court contact was again refused.
By November 1998 tentative contact was restored for the first time in
two and a half years. 'It was a complete shock, seeing them again,' he
said. 'They behaved like complete strangers.'
Still, the meetings went well and at the next court hearing the court
welfare officer suggested upping the number of visits. Harris's ex-wife,
however, disagreed, saying that the meetings were too disruptive. 'She
didn't have to give examples of what was disruptive and no one listened
to what the children said about wanting to see me,' said Harris. Visits
were reduced to one every two months.
Faced with seeing their father for just six days a year, the girls
gradually stopped visiting. 'That's just not enough contact to hold the
interest of small children,' said Harris. 'I was completely devastated.'

So he started protesting. At first, this consisted of a small handful of
passionately determined fathers targeting the homes of judges who had
denied them contact with their children. 'It was extreme, but my life
had been ripped apart and my relationships with the three people I loved
more than anything in the world had been stretched
to the point of collapse,' he said.

In January 2001 Harris attended a hearing designed to build the number
of visits up again. His barrister told him to expect a fine and a
telling-off for the protests. Instead, Mr Justice Munby gave Harris 10
months in Pentonville Prison, where he went on a short hunger strike.
Released after 84 days, he was told to employ a court-approved
psychologist to represent him at £100 a day. The psychologist backed
Harris and in January he saw his youngest daughter, now 12 years old,
for the first time in more than six years.

'My other daughters said they wanted nothing to do with me, which hurt
desperately, but they had been through hell and I understood that,' he
said.
On 22 March, the last supervised visit took place and Harris was
optimistic that the next court hearing would find in his favour. Then he
received a phone call from his eldest daughter, now 16, saying she loved
him and wanted to live with him. 'She had packed her stuff and that of
my youngest daughter and wanted me to pick them up,' said Harris. In
breach of all orders, Harris agreed to collect them.

Once back at his home, he contacted a High Court emergency hotline. A
judge returned his call and granted a temporary order followed by a
three-month trial period of residency, which last week became permanent.
Now Harris's eldest daughter lives with him, his youngest daughter moves
between both parents, and his middle daughter visits twice a week.
'I have been completely vindicated,' he said. 'But although we are a
family again we have deep scars and traumas that we will never entirely
get over.'

# When men have children, there's really no such thing as the freedom to
be a father for their children; On the practical level, men realise that
*even in death* they can only be the father their children's mother is
prepared to let them be....


--

Replace the obvious with paradise to email me.
See Found Images at:
http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/~mlvburke

  #2  
Old June 23rd 03, 09:01 PM
Freedom
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Ten-year hell is over for a loving father

Excellent!

"Max Burke" wrote in message
...
Ten-year hell is over for a loving father
http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/st...982508,00.html

Email:
Fax: +44 (0)207 713 4250/4286

The Observer
Sunday June 22, 2003

" Ten-year hell is over for a loving father "
After going to jail, a hunger strike and 130 court appearances, Mark
Harris finally has his family back

By Amelia Hill

Mark Harris has made 130 court appearances in 10 years, before 33
judges. He has picketed judges' houses and spent more than three months
in jail.

His crime? He wanted access to his three young daughters. Last week, in
a ruling seized on by an army of militant fathers, Harris learnt that he
had triumphed.
'The last decade has been absolute hell and devastation,' said Harris, a
driving instructor from Devon, in an exclusive interview with The
Observer. 'My kids have missed their father being part of their
childhood and I've missed watching them grow.'

His battle has become a cause célèbre for divorced and separated fathers
who claim their relationships with their children have been torn apart
by a legal system that is automatically prejudiced against them.
Harris's nightmare began in 1993, when his wife of 10 years left the
family home with their children as he was watching a football match in a
local pub. The girls were two, four and six at the time. 'I still saw my
children, dropping them off at school and picking them up most days,
like I'd always done,' he said.

But the arrangement deteriorated and Harris's visits were blocked. The
situation improved in 1994 after a court granted him unrestricted
access, but by October 1996 the girls complained that they weren't
getting on with their mother's new partner and asked to live with their
father.
After this request, all access with Harris was severed by the court. He
appealed, but the earliest date a hearing was granted was the following
April.

'In the meantime, I wasn't allowed anywhere near my children,' he said.
'I was reduced to standing on the corner when they were being driven to
school so I could wave at them. It was the only way I could let them
know I still existed and be sure that they were still all right.'
When the case came to court, Harris found that his former wife had
complained that his attempts to maintain contact constituted harassment.
The judge set an injunction preventing him from 'harassing, pestering or
upsetting' his ex-wife and froze all contact between him and his
children until a new hearing in July.

When the case came back to court, the judge accepted that the 'deep
wishes of three intelligent girls' was to have contact with their
father. Yet, in a 65-page judgment, he found that Harris's former wife
had been left with a 'feeling of being stalked and harassed' by his
attempts to contact his children, and jailed him for four months.
When Harris was released after 45 days, he determined to keep to the
letter of the law, but then his children contacted a mutual friend and
asked him to ring them. 'They didn't understand why I had dropped all
contact. What was I supposed to do?'

Because Harris replied to his children's request, when the case came
back to court contact was again refused.
By November 1998 tentative contact was restored for the first time in
two and a half years. 'It was a complete shock, seeing them again,' he
said. 'They behaved like complete strangers.'
Still, the meetings went well and at the next court hearing the court
welfare officer suggested upping the number of visits. Harris's ex-wife,
however, disagreed, saying that the meetings were too disruptive. 'She
didn't have to give examples of what was disruptive and no one listened
to what the children said about wanting to see me,' said Harris. Visits
were reduced to one every two months.
Faced with seeing their father for just six days a year, the girls
gradually stopped visiting. 'That's just not enough contact to hold the
interest of small children,' said Harris. 'I was completely devastated.'

So he started protesting. At first, this consisted of a small handful of
passionately determined fathers targeting the homes of judges who had
denied them contact with their children. 'It was extreme, but my life
had been ripped apart and my relationships with the three people I loved
more than anything in the world had been stretched
to the point of collapse,' he said.

In January 2001 Harris attended a hearing designed to build the number
of visits up again. His barrister told him to expect a fine and a
telling-off for the protests. Instead, Mr Justice Munby gave Harris 10
months in Pentonville Prison, where he went on a short hunger strike.
Released after 84 days, he was told to employ a court-approved
psychologist to represent him at £100 a day. The psychologist backed
Harris and in January he saw his youngest daughter, now 12 years old,
for the first time in more than six years.

'My other daughters said they wanted nothing to do with me, which hurt
desperately, but they had been through hell and I understood that,' he
said.
On 22 March, the last supervised visit took place and Harris was
optimistic that the next court hearing would find in his favour. Then he
received a phone call from his eldest daughter, now 16, saying she loved
him and wanted to live with him. 'She had packed her stuff and that of
my youngest daughter and wanted me to pick them up,' said Harris. In
breach of all orders, Harris agreed to collect them.

Once back at his home, he contacted a High Court emergency hotline. A
judge returned his call and granted a temporary order followed by a
three-month trial period of residency, which last week became permanent.
Now Harris's eldest daughter lives with him, his youngest daughter moves
between both parents, and his middle daughter visits twice a week.
'I have been completely vindicated,' he said. 'But although we are a
family again we have deep scars and traumas that we will never entirely
get over.'

# When men have children, there's really no such thing as the freedom to
be a father for their children; On the practical level, men realise that
*even in death* they can only be the father their children's mother is
prepared to let them be....


--

Replace the obvious with paradise to email me.
See Found Images at:
http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/~mlvburke



 




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