Circus owner guilty of cruelty to elephant

Bobby and Moira Roberts
Bobby and Moira Roberts
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A circus owner was today given a three-year conditional discharge after being found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to Anne the Asian elephant.

Bobby Roberts was also convicted of failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating the animal, which was filmed chained to the ground and being hit with a pitchfork.

Roberts, (69) who ran Super Circus in Polebrook, Cambridgeshire, also failed to ensure the elephant’s needs were met by not giving her medication for her arthritis.

He was given a three-year conditional discharge at Northampton Crown Court but was not ordered to pay costs and was not banned from owning animals.

His wife Moira, (75) was cleared of all three charges by District Judge David Chinnery following a five-day trial.

The court had been shown secretly-filmed footage of the animal being struck with a pitchfork by a groom.

The video was recorded by welfare group Animal Defenders International (ADI) between 21 January and 15 February 2011.

It showed the Asian elephant being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by the groom, Nicolai Nitu, at the circus’ winter quarters in Polebrook, Northamptonshire.

The elderly animal could be seen chained by one foot and one hind leg in a barn.

The legs of the elephant - who was not receiving medication for her arthritis - could also be seen to buckle several times in the footage.

Roberts, from Oundle, claimed he was unaware that Anne had been constantly chained and that the groom, who is believed to have returned home to Romania, had not followed his instructions.

He admitted that the elephant would be chained up at times but said his instructions were that she be let loose behind an electric fence in a cordoned-off area.

But the jury rejected his claims today and found him guilty of all charges, while clearing Mrs Roberts.

Following today’s verdict, Richard Crowley, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands, said: “The images of the abuse suffered by Anne the elephant upset a great many people across the country.

“Bobby Roberts had clear responsibilities for this elephant’s welfare, which he wilfully neglected when he treated her appallingly.

“Anne was kept chained up, beaten regularly and suffered significantly as a result.

“Not only did Bobby Roberts breach his professional obligations towards Anne, but his neglect and abuse was criminal.

“He gave instructions for Anne to be chained and took no action to prevent the beatings she had received, failing to provide any training or supervision for the staff member responsible for her.

“Today should serve as a warning that those who mistreat animals can expect to face prosecution.”