UK F4J Protester Acquitted

London, England–In my blog post Arrest of UK F4J Protester–Much Ado about Nothing in March I wrote:

One problem for dads in divorce is that they can often be arrested and get bad publicity for things which really are quite trivial and meaningless. As an example, take the recent UK headline Spider-Man arrested for harassing ex-wife.

Sounds bad, right? Yet all that really happened is that fathers’ rights activist Ray Barry (pictured as “Spiderman” at a Fathers 4 Justice protest) “was quizzed [by police] after distributing a leaflet containing details of his marriage split.” According to Barry:

“The leaflet details my belief that the family courts do not deliver justice and so I have to seek it differently, through the public. The leaflet was not much different to one I had been using for the past four or five years.”

The “58-year-old claimed not to have seen two of his three children for eight years and had only fortnightly access to the other.”

So his crime? Distributing a leaflet complaining about his mistreatment in family court and by his ex-wife. Big deal.

For a variety of reasons I don’t like it when protesters target judges’ homes or their ex-wives’ homes, and it isn’t generally done. But here Barry has been unlawfully cut off from his children for 8 years and–gasp–distributes a leaflet complaining about it in the neighborhood, and he gets arrested?! Sounds pretty cockeyed to me.

And why have there been no legal consequences for the wife cutting Barry off from his children?

The article is Spider-Man arrested for harassing ex-wife (Birmingham News, 3/17/08). I met Ray at the Men’s Equality Congress in Washington DC last year–seemed like a nice guy.

Surprise, surprise–the man who was accused of nothing has now been acquitted. Ray sent out this press release about it:

Spiderman acquitted

The Birmingham Evening Mail ran a story about me on theĀ 17th of March, headlined:

“Spider-man arrested for harassing ex-wife.”

I would be nice if similar coverage were given to my acquittal yesterday. I was found not guilty yesterday by Judge Qureshi at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court of harassing my ex-wife. I was charged with harassing her by distributing booklets about her. My defence was that the High Court had previously ruled I could do so, and that I was arrested for doing exactly the same thing in 2001, and on that occasion, the CPS read the booklet and
said there was nothing unlawful in it.

I wrote in advance of yesterday’s trial to the CPS asking for copies of the 2001 records of my arrest to support my defence. They wrote back, refusing to show them to me, saying they were not relevant, and that anyway the documents show, “There is no record of any CPS involvement.”

On the morning of the first day of the trial, the judge gave a formal reprimand to the CPS for purporting to speak on behalf of the court in this letter, without the court’s authority to do so. The judge then directed that the police custody log of the 2001 arrest must be produced in court that afternoon.

When it appeared, the log showed: “Person In Custody (Raymond Barry) distributing leaflets/booklets published by himself about his former wife…Person in custody released following review of evidence with CPS lawyers as to conduct of this person in custody…”

In short, when the CPS wrote to me saying they had no involvement in the 2001 arrest, that was untrue.

I had also argued that the police only decided to press this harassment charge because I and some friends tried to protest against their harassment of me outside Bilston St Police station, Wolverhampton. Nothing had been done about the harassment matter for the 2 weeks following my arrest, then on the day of the protest, the 18th of March, 11 statements were signed and dated that same day to support the harassment charge. I argued this could not be pure coincidence, and that the charge was only brought to teach me a lesson for daring to protest against the police.

After acquitting me, the judge made a number of criticisms of the police and of the CPS, saying in particular: “The incident of 2001 in the defence statement was summarily dismissed in an off-hand way by CPS, yet that document proved crucial.”

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