‘Family courts turned my custody into a war and turned my parents against each other’: Daughter of Fathers4Justice campaigner who missed her 10th birthday because he was in jail for protest on Harriet Harman’s roof tells of ‘broken’ childhood
- Rosy Stanesby said her childhood torn apart by parents’ fight for custody
- The 17-year-old said she spent nine years caught up in a bitter legal battle
- Her father ‘Jolly’ one of the most prominent Fathers4Justice campaigners
- He launched series of high-profile stunts for equal access to his daughter
Rosy Stanesby, now 17, says she spent nine years caught up in the bitter battle for her time and affection.
After being restricted to access of just two days every fortnight by the courts, her father Jonathan ‘Jolly’ Stanesby became one of the most prominent activists in the fathers’ rights action group.
His campaigning began in October 2003 when he scaled the Royal Courts of Justice with a fellow campaigner dressed as Batman and Robin.
And spurred on by a desperate bid to have equal access to his daughter, Mr Stanesby launched a series of high-profile and disruptive stunts.
He succeeded in closing the Blackwall Tunnel and the M4, he interrupted National Lottery programmes, scaled numerous high profile buildings including Stonehenge and Tower Bridge and was even confronted with a loaded shotgun by Judge David Tyzack after he climbed the roof of his Devon home.
The distraught and angry father also tried to halt the Queen’s carriage during Trooping of the Colour and in August 2007 he was arrested with a fellow protester at gunpoint by a SWAT team after climbing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in the US wearing Captain America and Batman costumes.
But while Miss Stanesby, of Plymouth, Devon, admits she found images of her father in fancy dress ‘amusing’ she says there was a lot of hidden torment about being what has been described as a ‘tug of love’ child.
Miss Stanesby, who was just two when her parents separated in 2000, said she always felt her voice was not heard by the Family Court.
She said: ‘The things that have happened to me I can never forget. I always felt like a case number, a pay cheque, a child to be won by a parent. The family courts system is a battle, not a justice system’.
It was only after nine years of countless meetings and hearings that Miss Stanesby’s care was equally divided between her mother and father.
High-profile stunt: Her father Jonathan ‘Jolly’ Stanesby (left) began campaigning in October 2003 when he scaled the Royal Courts of Justice with a fellow Fathers4Justice activist dressed as Batman and Robin
Disruptive: He also succeeded in closing the Blackwall Tunnel and the M4, interrupted National Lottery programmes and scaled numerous high profile buildings including Stonehenge (pictured) and Tower Bridge
But while Miss Stanesby, of Plymouth, Devon, admits she found images of her father in fancy dress ‘amusing’ she says there was a lot of hidden torment about being what has been described as a ‘tug of love’ child
She said her trauma was punctuated by the ‘fun’ of seeing her father campaign for equal access dressed as a superhero on the news.
Her favourite costume was that of Batman’s sidekick, Robin.
She recalled: ‘I remember thinking how funny dad was climbing buildings. I thought the ‘R’ stood for Rosy.’
But Mr Stanesby’s high-profile actions saw him jailed for two months in November 2008 after he was found guilty of causing distress and alarm and refusing to obey a police officer after a rooftop protest at the home of the then deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman.
Miss Stanesby described herself as a ‘bit broken’ by those events.
She added: ‘While he was in prison he missed my 10th birthday, my piano exam and my weekends together.
‘I could not understand why I could only see my dad for two days at a time every other weekend.’
She remembers how she became used to seeing police at her father’s house.
Miss Stanesby (pictured left handcuffed to her father Jolly in another stunt) said her trauma was punctuated by the ‘fun’ of seeing her father campaign for equal access dressed as a superhero on the news (right)
Jolly Stanesby’s campaigning began in October 2003 when he scaled the Royal Courts of Justice (pictured)
Mr Stanesby’s actions saw him jailed for two months in November 2008 after he was found guilty of causing distress and alarm after a rooftop protest at the home of then deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman (pictured)
At one stage, her father said he would only collect before or drop Miss Stanesby after a visit, despite being ordered by the court to do both.
On some occasions that led to the police being called to his house. Officers also came on inquiries to do with the protests by Mr Stanesby.
After her father came out of prison she was interviewed again. She told an interviewer from Cafcass, which represents children in family court cases, that she would run away if she were not listened to.
Shortly afterwards, in 2009, it was agreed that her mother and father would have equal care and residency. Cafcass, which stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.
Miss Stanesby said: ‘I started to sleep better at night and I became more confident. Life was how it should have been.’
She says her parents straight away began getting on, which she believes shows the involvement of solicitors, officialdom and the courts was the problem.
Miss Stanesby added: ‘They turned everything into such a war. The courts turned my parents against each other.
‘I wanted to be with them both. I love mum and dad and always have done.’
Miss Stanesby is currently preparing to take her AS Level exams at Ivybridge Community College and plans to go to university.
She added: ‘I still cry myself to sleep sometimes remembering how horrible it felt and still trying to understand everything that happened.’