Bob Geldof BBC Radio 4 -12 September 2003
TODAY: Bob Geldof calls for an overhaul in family law.
Bob Geldof is campaigning for a complete overhaul of family law. It is, he says, stacked against fathers. His case for change is made in a new book called Children and their Families which is a wide ranging review of the current legal system. He explains his argument and Andrew Don, a Family Law lawyer, explains what this change in the law would mean.
Interviewer: Today Bob Geldof tells us why he believes that when it comes to fathers and their children the family law system in this country is deeply unjust.
Geldof: "There's really an apocalypse of pain there, I mean really 70 bin bags 'Bob Geldof, England' letters - just people with no one else to write to. I couldn't read them. Just the things that happen in our country that shouldn't happen"
Interviewer: We hear his proposals for changing the system
First; Children and Divorcing Parents. Bob Geldof who suffered a very public break-up and custody battle in the mid '90s for his three children, which in fact he eventually won is campaigning for a complete overhaul of family law. The law he says is stacked from the word go against fathers - no equality for men whatsoever. His case for fundamental change is made in a chapter in a new book called 'Children and their families' - which is a wide ranging review of the current legal system.
Since Geldof has got involved he has had more personal response
on this than any other cause he has championed - including Live Aid. 70 bin
bags of letters have arrived on his doorstep. The appetite for change is there.
The problem is the justice system is not delivering. Despite studies showing
that contact with both parents is beneficial to children, and that the vast
majority of fathers lose all contact with their children within two years. Indeed
official figures show that nine out of ten single parent families in Britain
are headed by women.
I spoke to Bob Geldof last night. How did he feel that the law had worked against him?
Geldof: "You are usually in such a state of shock and general disconvulvulation and pain that the processes of the law dismay you - you are in no position to be able to handle them. And then the ground that you are walking on has shifted so much from what you are used to into a really an Alice Through the Looking Glass World of assumptions and things that you are overwhelmed by the system - not by the judges, not by the panoply of the courts - that didn't bother me at all. But I was dismayed at the way in which - and I know a lot of women watching this and I can't speak of their experience - I can only talk about my experiences as a man. But as a man how belittled and dismissed I was because I wanted to be with my children."
Interviewer: The assumption is that they should be with the mother - that's the way it stands in law.
Geldof: "That is the assumption. It's not written but sort of line one says 'This law shall act in the best interests of the child'. We all agree with that. The unspoken and unwritten corollary are that the interests of the child are nearly always best served with the presence of the mother. And that is empirically just not so. I would argue that empirically the interests of the child are best served by both as often as possible. The law in fact will not even countenance that idea."
Interviewer: How do we see the sorts of pain that fathers are gong through?
Geldof: "I think everyone knows men who are dads - a lot of them have resorted to drink, unfortunately a lot of them have fallen out of the system. They can't focus on their jobs - they lose their jobs.
If you are a woman listening and you've got children, imagine now an agent
of the state now approaching you - right now - and taking your children and
saying 'You cannot see them except maybe two hours a week. I'm taking them away
now'. Well first you'd ask 'What? What have I done?'. That's the first thing.
But imagine your agony and your pain. Believe me. Really believe me it is no less - not a scintilla or a fraction less for a man. A man's love for his children is exactly equal - different perhaps - but equal to a woman's."
Interviewer: So what needs to be changed about the law at the moment and how much progress do you feel you're making with the people that count here?
Geldoff: "What I'm proposing is to have a base level that the assumption upon separation of two people who just don't love each other - they're not criminals - they just don't love each other any more - or one of them doesn't and moves away. Then the assumption is that the children are 50% with their dad and 50% with their mum. If they can't work that out; mum says 'I just can't do this'. Fine they arrive at an understanding
Transcribed by David Cannon
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Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) http://spig.clara.net
Last updated - 15 September 2003