A fathers’ rights activist dressed as Batman caused an embarrassing security breach at Buckingham Palace today by scaling the royal residence and staging a protest from a ledge.
Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Jason Hatch managed to position himself on the front of the famous building despite the presence of armed police guards.
The Queen was not at home as Hatch, wearing grey tights, black pants and cape, the superhero’s bat symbol and a mask with pointed ears, staged his demonstration.
Standing on a ledge 25ft above the ground to the right hand side of the famous main balcony, he unfurled a banner which read: “Super dads of fathers 4 justice” and “Fighting for your right to your kids”.
Hatch, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, scaled the outer fence helped by accomplice Robin – Dave Pyke – while other protesters distracted the attention of armed police by climbing on the front gate.
Matt O’Connor, the founder of Fathers 4 Justice, said that as ‘Robin’ climbed the ladder armed police had threatened to shoot him if he did not stop.
“He has been whisked away by Fathers 4 Justice members,” Mr O’Connor added.
Police said the protesters were detected by security cameras as they used ladders on the railings on Constitution Hill.
The latest royal security lapse will severely embarrass police chiefs who were forced to step up surveillance at the Palace recently in the wake of a spate of problems.
Security was reviewed after Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry got a job at the Palace as a footman before a state visit by President Bush in November last year.
Stand-up comedian Aaron Barschak also highlighted lax security by gate-crashing Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle in June 2003.
As police tried to talk Hatch down, he waved his arms in the air while a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle from the nearby Queen Victoria Memorial.
The painter and decorator, who is in his early thirties, has a daughter and a son. It is believed he has had problems with access to his children despite living just a a few minutes’ walk from their home.
The area immediately in front of the Palace was cordoned off and a police helicopter circled overhead.
Fathers 4 Justice are notorious for their high profile publicity stunts.
The demonstration today was timed to coincide with the trial of one of two protesters who hurled condoms filled with purple flour at Prime Minister Tony Blair.
That protest halted Prime Minister’s Questions and sparked fears that the chamber was under biological attack.
Bow Street Magistrates’ Court was told today that Guy Harrison, 36, of Ashurst, Sussex, visited the guest gallery with Patrick Ronald Davis after winning a VIP ticket to the Commons from Baroness Golding at a charity raffle.
Davis, 48, who denies a charge of disorderly behaviour, is alleged to have blocked the path of a doorkeeper and unfurled a banner as the protest took place.
Harrison, who admitted the same offence, was fined £600 for his actions in May.
On Saturday, another protester David Chick demonstrated over being denied access to his daughter by bringing the London Eye to a standstill after climbing to the top while dressed as Spider-Man.
Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Darryl Westell, 22, described how the protest was carried out today saying: “The armed response came towards us and by the time they realised what Batman was doing, he had got over.
Hatch used the ladder to climb the wall of the palace itself, he added.
Mr Westell said Hatch had not been able to see his two children for around four years.
“This is because the family courts do not believe he has the right to have co-operation in the raising of his children not because he is a bad father,” he added.
Another campaigner John Ison said Hatch scaled York Minster for a rooftop protest in July in which campaigners dressed as members of the clergy.
“This is planned to coincided with the trial of Ron Davies and the fun powder plot,” he added.
“If a bunch of fathers can do this, for the terrorists it should be a walk in the park.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the demonstration was regrettable.
“We don’t believe that events like this actually help address what is the complexity of the problem,” the spokesman said.
At one point Hatch unfurled the banner in front of a window and someone inside tried to rip it down before he moved on to his current position.
John O’Connor, a former Scotland Yard Flying Squad commander, said he was “astonished” that anyone had been able to breach palace security.
“They are more concerned about the changing of the guard than taking security seriously,” he said.
Former royal press officer Dickie Arbiter said officials in charge of security at the palace “are going to have to go back to the drawing board”.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “There’s man there, but it’s a police matter.
“I’m not sure where he is but I can hear him shouting.”
The Queen was enjoying her annual break at Balmoral in Scotland and no other members of the royal family were in residence.
Today’s incident came during the summer opening of the London residence to the public.