FOUR campaigning Huddersfield dads were today preparing to fight a £23,000 bill ... for daubing paint on a door.
The four members of Fathers 4 Justice threw purple paint on the doors of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service- known as Cafcass - in Batley.
Cafcass pursued the matter through Huddersfield Civil Court.
Now Glynn Clarkson, of Kirkheaton; Neil Hill, of Lowerhouses, Andrew Lindley, of Outlane and Paul Midgley, of Wakefield have been ordered by a judge to pay the £23,000 legal costs.
A national campaign is underway to save the quartet - dubbed The Huddersfield 4 - from financial ruin.
Fathers 4 Justice is a civil rights group which feels the legal system in the UK for organising access rights to fathers after couples split up is unfair and carry out high profile demonstrations against it.
Purple is the international colour for equality. The four were arrested in the early hours of February 3. After the paint attack in Batley, they daubed graffiti on the offices of Parker Bird solicitors offices on Queen Street, Huddersfield.
They were given a police caution after admitting responsibility for both incidents.
Parker Bird let the matter drop, but Cafcass pursued the matter through Huddersfield Civil Court.
Cafcass produce reports when separating couples cannot agree which who should provide the main care for their children.
The four are to appeal against the decision but Fathers 4 Justice have started a national campaign to back the men.
One of the four, Glynn Clarkson, said: "At first Cafcass wanted £511.08 for the door which we thought was extortionate.
"We offered £400, but they turned us down and took us to the civil court.
"The judge then refused to hear it in the small claims court because he thought we may try to put up a complex civil liberties defence, but we didn't.
"We then wanted it to be retracked back to the small claims court, but at that hearing Cafcass pressed for a summary judgement. The case was dealt with that day and the costs for £23,000 awarded against us.
"We feel we've been really stitched up."
Fathers 4 Justice Yorkshire co-ordinator Martin Cottrell said: "These men have lost their families. After this judgement they are now in danger of losing their homes too.
"It is absolutely disgusting things have got this far. It was just a £200 door painted with purple emulsion in a peaceful, non-violent demonstration.
"The costs are totally unreasonable in relation to the damage done."
Mr Cottrell revealed that a national blitz against Cafcass was now being planned as a show of solidarity towards the four.
London-based Fathers 4 Justice founder Matt O'Connor claimed: "This is a politically-motivated action by Cafcass to persecute four loving fathers.
He promised non-violent direct action that would make running Cafcass offices in Yorkshire "untenable'.'
A Cafcass spokeswoman said: "We have also sought an injunction to ensure that our premises are not subjected to any more damage by the men.
"The cost of the proceedings was £11,800 and the court will decide whether the men should pay the full amount.
"Cafcass makes no apology for this. We are a public sector body, funded by the taxpayer and wilful damage to our property should not be paid for with public money.
"We respect the right to peaceful protest, but previous activities by this group have intimidated and distressed staff as well as families who have been visiting offices."
Mr Clarkson said this was the first time a lesser figure of £11,800 has been mentioned.
The Huddersfield 4 have set up a website called www.huddersfield4.com
* A meeting of Fathers 4 Justice in Huddersfield will be held at the White Swan on Westgate in Huddersfield town centre at 7pm next Wednesday
* It was set up by the Government on April 1, 2001 and has an annual budget of £95m.
* Cafcass officials become involved when parents are separating or divorcing and have not reached agreement about arrangements for their children.
* If such cases come to a family court, the official writes a report for the court hearing so decisions are made in the best interests of the children.
* Reports from Cafcass officers tell the courts the inquiries they have made and say what they think should happen. The final decision rests with the judge or magistrate.
* Cafcass officers are qualified in social work and have experience working with children and families.
* Cafcass is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.