Child abuse charge couple may sue police

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The Independent Online
A BRITISH couple charged with child abuse in the United States after they left their children alone in a hotel room are considering legal action against the police after state prosecutors dropped all charges against them.

Philip and Jill Adam, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, were arrested by police in St Petersburg, Florida, after they were accused of leaving their two young children while they went to watch a fireworks display. Hotel staff at the Tradewinds resort raised the alarm after the couple's five-year-old daughter, Maisie, went looking for her parents - leaving her one-year-old brother on his own - and accidentally got locked out of the hotel room.

Staff claimed they searched for almost an hour for the parents despite the couple being only about 100 metres from their room at the fireworks display.

Police were called, the couple located and Mr and Mrs Adam spent the night of 30 May in Pinellas County Jail, facing charges of child abuse.

The couple were eventually released after Mrs Adam's father, Sir Lawrence Byford, a former chief inspector of constabulary and former president of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, flew to Florida to secure their release on $1,000 bail.

Mr and Mrs Adam learnt the charges had been dropped early yesterday and their US lawyer, John Trevena, said they were now considering suing the St Petersburg Beach police force in a civil suit for wrongful arrest. He said: "This validates what we said. If there was a case, they would have filed it."

Mr Trevena said the parents felt the hotel could have easily resolved the matter by locating them by the pool when their daughter was found outside their room rather than calling the police.

Mr Adam told the St Petersburg Times: "Obviously we're relieved that this whole nightmare period of our lives is over."

Florida's chief assistant state attorney, Bruce Bartlett said the actions of Mr and Mrs Adam, did not rise to the level of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. But he added: "We are clearly not condoning their conduct. Most people agree that what they did was not good parenting. But it was not necessarily criminal behaviour. I think they've learnt a lesson on this thing."