The former owner of Anne the elephant was yesterday found guilty of animal cruelty – but walked free from court without even being fined. Circus boss Bobby Roberts, 70, was given a conditional discharge for keeping Anne constantly chained in her winter quarters and failing to prevent a groom from beating her with a pitchfork. [...]

Sunday Times 2

Guilty of cruelty but not even fined

Circus owner who let Sri Lankan elephant Anne be chained and beaten walks free
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The former owner of Anne the elephant was yesterday found guilty of animal cruelty – but walked free from court without even being fined.

Circus boss Bobby Roberts, 70, was given a conditional discharge for keeping Anne constantly chained in her winter quarters and failing to prevent a groom from beating her with a pitchfork.

His wife Moira, 75, was cleared of the same charges after the judge ruled that she was not an owner of Anne and therefore not responsible for her care. The couple ran Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus where Anne’s ordeal was secretly filmed by animal rights group Animal Defenders International.

Sick:Secret footage filmed by Animal Defenders International showed Anne being violently beaten

Last night ADI chief executive Jan Creamer said the ‘derisory’ sentence sent out the wrong message to other animal owners and circuses.

She said: ‘Despite the considerable suffering caused to Anne the elephant, the sentencing meted out to Mr Roberts is derisory and provides no faith that the Animal Welfare Act can protect animals in circuses.

‘People should be held responsible for the day-to-day experiences of their animals.’

Roberts and his wife left Northampton magistrates court without commenting.Anne was brought over from Sri Lanka in the 1950s and worked for the circus for 50 years. She was diagnosed with arthritis, for which she was being treated, in 2003.

Roberts and his wife, of Oundle, Northamptonshire, each denied three charges: Causing Anne unnecessary suffering by requiring her to be chained to the ground by one front and one back leg, failing to prevent a groom from beating her, and failing to meet her needs by ensuring she had enough room to move around in.

The beating was inflicted by groom Nicolai Nitu, who is thought to have fled back to his native Romania and has never been traced.Bobby Roberts, who had health problems, entered the barn only four times during the three-and-a-half week filming period.

Each time Anne was chained but he never asked for her to be untethered – and on one occasion supervised the changing over of the chain from one leg to another. The judge said Roberts witnessed Anne in chains but ‘for reasons which he cannot explain’ did nothing about it.

Usually Anne was unchained between 11am and 7pm and allowed to wander around in an area of the barn cordoned off by an electric fence in accordance with good practice guidelines.The judge said Roberts failed to exercise suitable supervision of the groom and it was clear the groom was acting under instructions to keep Anne chained.

But he told him: ‘The real cruelty was inflicted by your groom who acted without your knowledge.’
The maximum sentence for each charge is a 20,000 fine and six months in jail. A ban on keeping animals could also have been ordered but was not.

The judge discharged Bobby Roberts on condition he does not commit any further offence for three years, and said he took into account that Roberts has ‘lost everything’ as a result of the case and his business is now ‘effectively at an end’.

Anne, aged 60 and Europe’s oldest elephant, is now living at Longleat safari park in Wiltshire after the Daily Mail intervened to find her a new home.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of readers, who donated 340,000, she has the run of an 80-acre enclosure. She also has access to a series of paddocks, meadows and water pools at the park.

Daily Mail, London




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