Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Minister hit the roof at my protest

London Metro

The alarm clock went off at 2am on Sunday, then a second later the realisation of what I was about to do struck: I was probably going to make headlines during the day – and hopefully not for falling to my death.

After breakfast, I drove from my Plymouth home to pick up my fellow protester en route to the “target” in the capital. We arrived just before 8am and our crew were there. After a quick check, we found access to the rooftop. But what about the security that our target must have in place? What about the police marksmen, barbed wire, guard dogs and CCTV you would expect at the home of the deputy Labour leader? No, not a thing.

So, my partner in crime and I donned our superhero suits. It was all systems go. We took our banner and scaled ladders to get on to the roof. The road was silent. We wondered, at first, if anyone would see us. Then, about 30 minutes later, a young girl appeared in the garden opposite. She waved, then disappeared, before reappearing with mum, dad and siblings. Neighbours came out.

We waited, with still no sign of the occupants of the house. An hour after our climb, a car cruised by carrying what looked like plain-clothes police. A young officer appeared below.

I explained that Harriet Harman, the occupant of the house, had declared a year ago, as the then minister for justice, that family courts should be opened up to the public. He asked whether it would not have been better for us to write to her with our complaints. I said that I had done that twice, and had sent her a copy of a book written by myself and my daughter, Family Court Hell.

He asked what he could do to resolve matters and I passed him down a copy of my book. I asked him to give it to her. Ten minutes later, he reappeared, saying that Harman had declined to read the book. I decided to remain on the roof until she thought again.

Hours later, with a smile and a quick comment to the hordes of press, Harman left her house. If only she had agreed to look at the book and see for herself what had happened in my case (and countless others). If she had, she could have stayed at home in peace that sunny day and we would have been back in Devon in time for tea.

Mark Harris, 46, is a Fathers 4 Justice protester. He has been bailed by police investigating the protest.

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