A man from Bristol attempted to abduct a barmaid’s baby boy in an incident described by the judge as “every parent’s worst nightmare”.
Daniele Spiga, 43, has been freed by a judge after admitting picking up the 18-month-old toddler at the Ridge pub in Cheltenham. He was heading out of the door with the child when he was forcibly stopped by locals.
Spiga, of Imperial Walk, was fined £1,500 and handed a suspended prison sentence at Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday, August 25, reports the Bristol Post.
Judge Michael Cullum told him: “You are a man of good character and despite all the police searches there was nothing to suggest that you were planning to hurt the child or had any sexual or other interest in children.
“I could not be certain that you had any criminal motives towards that child. I suspect you didn’t have a plan and moved to the outside of the pub. Perhaps you were drunk or just odd.
“But you had no right to remove the child. Your actions crossed the custody threshold and I have to impose a prison sentence – however I feel that it can be suspended.”
Spiga, who is from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, had denied abduction of the child by taking him from the custody of his mother on December 1, 2018 and a jury had been sworn in on Monday, August 24 to try him – but after the first day of the trial Spiga changed his plea to guilty.
Judge Michael Cullum told the jury of eight men and four women that legal discussions had been held at the beginning of the second day of the trial and Spiga now wished to admit the offence.
At the start of the case, the jury was told that the boy’s mother was working behind the bar at the Ridge and had arranged for her own mother and her partner to join her there.
Giles Nelson, prosecuting, Mr Nelson said at about 7pm the toddler’s mum served Spiga with a drink and noticed he was ‘behaving oddly’.
She saw him go to the pub’s pool room, where her son was being looked after by his grandmother and other relatives.
Mr Nelson said: “Spiga was then seen interacting with the boy and he placed him on the pool table. The boy’s mother spotted what was going on and picked her son up off the pool table and placed him back on the floor.”
The jury was shown CCTV footage of the toddler running around the pool room and at one stage he was collected by Spiga, who picked him up and was then seen attempting to leave the pub with him.
“After a short skirmish from a number of people in which Spiga received a black eye, the boy’s mother was able to retrieve her son,” added the prosecutor.
The police were called after the licensee of the pub had watched the CCTV footage. When police officers arrived, Spiga told officers it was ‘all a bit of a misunderstanding’ and said he didn’t know what his intention was.
“Spiga said he was just walking around the pub with the boy and had no intention of running off with him,” said Mr Nelson.
Jennifer Tallentire, defending, told the jury Spiga, who is from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, had been working locally to the pub as a building contractor and did not really know anybody in the area.
She added: “He felt lonely and went to the pub to socialise and meet people. Spiga believes there appears to be a cultural difference in how he can treat children and interact with them in public.
“He said he enjoyed playing with the boy. He does not know what his intentions were when he went outside with the boy in his arms.”
The court was told the incident had little impact on the boy, now aged three, but it had greatly affected other members of the family.
The jury heard the police had fully investigated Spiga and the officers found no evidence of sexual or predatory behaviour in his background.
Sentencing Spiga, the judge said: “It’s probably every parents’ nightmare to have their young child taken.
“The child at the time of the incident was a young toddler, obviously full of life and full of mischief and enjoying himself in circumstances in which he and his family felt comfortable.
“You started playing around with that child. Most parents would say your actions in placing the child on the pool table were a rather stupid thing to do. And no doubt this was the reaction of the boy’s mother when she took her son off you.
“You had no right to touch that child in any way. Importantly, you had no right to remove the child.
“Anybody seeing that would have made the assumption that you were going to harm the child and I fully understand that the mother felt you were abducting her son and take him away.
“For that moment you had control – but very quickly the family regained control. Luckily, within seconds, the young boy was rightfully returned to his family.
The judge sentenced Spiga to a nine-month prison term, suspended for a year, and ordered him to pay a fine of £1,500