UK & World News
Elephant Abuse Circus Owner Found Guilty
A circus owner found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an elephant in his care has been spared a prison term.
Bobby Roberts was also convicted of failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating the animal called Anne.
The 69-year-old defendant, who ran Super Circus in Polebrook, Cambridgeshire, also failed to ensure the Asian elephant's needs were met by not giving her medication for her arthritis.
Roberts was given a three-year conditional discharge, but not ordered to pay costs and was not banned from owning animals.
His wife Moira, 75, was cleared by a jury following the five-day trial at Northampton Crown Court. The couple, from Oundle, had denied the charges.
The court was shown footage filmed secretly by animal welfare group Animal Defenders International (ADI) of the elephant being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by the groom at the circus's winter quarters last year.
Sentencing, District Judge David Chinnery said he recognised that Bobby had not directly inflicted the suffering, adding that he had cared for animals "for the greater part of your seventy years without criticism from any quarter".
He said: "As you know only too well there are vast swathes of the public who have publicly voiced their views on what should happen to you.
"No cruelty was administered by your own hand.
"The chaining I regard as serious but the real cruelty it seems to me was inflicted by your groom, a man whom you had entrusted with the care of Anne, behind your back and without your knowledge.
" ...As a result of what has happened your business is effectively at an end. You have lost everything which you have built up over the last five decades. I am told that you have no funds at all."
He added that Bobby had "suffered enough punishment over the last eighteen months" and said given his "exemplary" past record was not imposing a ban on owning or caring for animals.
The secret video footage, filmed between January 21 and February 15 2011, also showed Anne constantly chained to the ground.
The 58-year-old elephant could be seen chained by one foot and one hind leg in a barn.
The legs of the animal - who the prosecution allege was not receiving medication for its arthritis - could also be seen to buckle several times in the footage.
Roberts 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.
Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, criticised the sentence.
She told Sky News: "No costs, no fines, and a conditional discharge is derisory. It's giving the message to circus owners that they don't need to protect these animals."
The RSPCA's Jody Gordon added: "Anyone looking at this shocking footage can see how this poor elephant suffered, and this clearly spells out how completely unacceptable this is.
"It is only a pity those physically beating Anne in the film footage could not be prosecuted also."
In April 2011, the defendants agreed to hand Anne over to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire, where she is to live out her days.