Saturday, 29 September 2007


Two fathers' rights protesters - one from Ivybridge - handcuffed former children's minister Margaret Hodge during a family law conference, a court heard today.

Jason Hatch, 35, and Jonathan 'Jolly' Stanesby, 41, walked up to the MP during a question-and-answer session in Salford, Greater Manchester and grabbed her by the arms, Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court was told.

Stanesby, of Ivybridge, told the minister she was being "arrested" for child abuse before cuffing her left wrist to his, the court heard.

Mrs Hodge, who is MP for Barking, was trapped in the fixed handcuffs for 15 minutes and eventually had to be released using bolt cutters.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Alan Wolstenholme said Hatch had intended to handcuff himself to Mrs Hodge's other arm but she struggled free with the help of her assistant private secretary. Hatch, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was grabbed by a security guard but managed to get free and leave the conference at the Lowry Hotel, dropping his handcuffs on the way, the court heard.

Mr Wolstenholme said the pair were both members of Fathers4Justice at the time of the incident on November 19, 2004, and had aimed to gain publicity for their cause.

Mr Wolstenholme said Mrs Hodge, who, at the time, was minister for children, young people and families, arrived at the hotel at around 10am.

She spoke at the conference, which was entitled Battle Of The Sexes, and took part in a Q and A session afterwards. Around 10 minutes into the session, she noticed two men approaching her from the left of the platform.

Mr Wolstenholme said: "The two men were carrying books and stood out to the extent that they wore ill-fitting suits and seemed to be the only people standing up at the time.

"As they got to within five feet or so of Margaret Hodge they rushed towards her. One of the two men took hold of her right arm and the other took her left arm."

Both men deny a charge of false imprisonment.