My nine years in hell while dad fought for the right to see me


Rosy Stanesby

Like most teenagers, Rosy Stanesby has unblinking, confident opinions on how the world should be, and fragile moments when the tears come readily.

The distinctive thing about this 17-year-old is how both are present so boldly in her character – and spring from the same source.

She was able to channel her sense of justice into a speech before an audience in Parliament, but sometimes cries herself to sleep, both because of what she says the Family Court system did to her and continues to do to other children today.

“The things that have happened to me I can never forget,” she says.

Rosy was what might popularly be called a “tug of love” child. She was two years old when her parents separated in 2000. Her father, a registered child minder, sought shared residency and care but that could not be agreed.

The courts ruled that she should see her father for two days every fortnight.

Only after nine years of countless meetings and hearings was Rosy’s care equally divided between her mum and dad.

“I could not understand why I could only see my dad for two days at a time every other weekend.”

When she was old enough to understand a little, there were still frequent tears, not all of them her own.

The nine years before she was officially allowed to split her time equally between her mum and dad were punctuated by the “fun” of seeing her dad campaign for equal access – and the trauma of him being sent to prison.

Her dad, Jolly Stanesby, is a prominent campaigner for fathers’ rights. He was a leading figure in Fathers4Justice, known for the comic book hero costumes at their high-profile protests.

“I remember thinking how funny Dad was climbing buildings,” Rosy says. Her favourite costume that of Batman’s sidekick, Robin. “I thought the ‘R’ stood for Rosy.”

In November 2008, Jolly who 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. He was jailed for two months.

“While he was in prison he missed my 10th birthday, my piano exam and my weekends together.”

She says she felt “a bit broken” by that episode.

That added to the constant feeling that her voice was not heard and her opinions not listened to by the Family Court.


Rosy says she always felt she was “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”.

She remembers how she became used to seeing police at her father’s house. At one stage, her father said he would only collect before or drop Rosy 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 Jolly.

Rosy even demanded to see the police herself.

“I remember being in my summer dress and insisting my dad take me to the police station. I made him do it.”

That visit led to more disillusionment with the system. Rosy remembers bursting into tears and telling the police officer, “Why won’t anyone just listen to me!”

After her dad came out of prison she was interviewed again. She told a Cafcass interviewer she would run away if she were not listened to.

Shortly afterwards, in 2009, it was agreed that her mum and dad would have equal care and residency.

“I started to sleep better at night and I became more confident. Life was how it should have been.”

Rosy says her parents straight away began getting on, which she believes shows the involvement of solicitors, officialdom and the courts was the problem.

“They turned everything into such a war. The courts turned my parents against each other,” she says.

“I wanted to be with them both. I love Mum and Dad and always have done.”

She is doing well at Ivybridge Community College and is preparing to take her AS Level exams. She enjoys sport and music and plans to go to university.

Rosy has the confidence to address an adult audience, including that at Parliament at a fathers’ rights event organised by an MP.

But she says, “I still cry myself to sleep sometimes remembering how horrible it felt and still trying to understand everything that happened.”

Rosy has spoken publicly about her experiences, but for legal reasons the newspaper is restricted as to the information it can print.

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