The Elephant's Owner Found Guilty Of Causing Suffering
Roberts, owner of Super Circus, is given conditional discharge as judge
criticises animal rights activists' tactics
owner has been found guilty of causing suffering to an elderly elephant,
but the judge who heard the case strongly criticised the methods used by
animal activists who exposed him.
police are now investigating threats aimed at the circus owner Bobby Roberts
and comments about the case made on Facebook and other sites.
filmed footage obtained by the activists Animal Defenders International
(ADI) caught one of the Asian elephant's grooms, Nicolai Nitu from Romania,
hitting her with a pitchfork and kicking her.
occasion 69-year-old Roberts could also be seen apparently aiming a kick
at the animal, known as Anne.
the trial it was claimed that Roberts had failed to stop Nitu mistreating
Anne and that she was kept chained up almost permanently while the circus
was at its winter quarters in Cambridgeshire. The prosecution alleged she
was not given the medication she needed for arthritis.
district judge David Chinnery found Roberts, of Oundle, Northamptonshire,
guilty of three charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. He cleared Roberts's
wife, Moira, of all charges, ruling that she was not Anne's owner.
the judge said he had found Roberts, who said he was appalled by what had
happened to Anne, a truthful witness with a "deep love" for the
animals he cared for. He accepted that Roberts had not kicked Anne but said
the gesture was a "casual flick" to make sure her trunk did not
mark his suit.
judge said: "His distress at seeing the video footage of the groom
striking Anne was both genuine and very moving. He has devoted his whole
life to the circus, performing from the age of four, and clearly has many
walked free after being given a conditional discharge. He was not banned
from keeping animals.
expressed "deep disappointment" with the sentence. But Chinnery
criticised ADI for releasing the footage – it appeared first in the
Daily Mail – to the media before any prosecution began. He said: "This
has resulted in a great deal of coverage both on the internet and elsewhere,
which had the potential to jeopardise the right to a fair trial."
judge continued: "This couple have been tried by the public who have
only the footage of the cruelty to the animal upon which to make a judgment.
This has resulted in personal vilification of both of the defendants both
by members of the public and from my own observations by members of the
he had been forced to ask the police to be at Northampton crown court to
ensure the couple's safety and added: "The court staff here have received
a number of emails containing some serious threats directed at the defendants.
Those have been referred to the police, who are currently investigating
them, and I have also asked for the comments by some members of the public
on Facebook and other sites to be investigated as prima facie they constitute
judge said the ADI "sat on" the evidence for two months leaving
the elephant where she was. After the story broke in spring last year she
was moved to Longleat safari park in Wiltshire, where she is doing well.
"The conclusion to which I am drawn therefore is that Anne's welfare
was only a part of the objective by ADI; they have a wider agenda."
the judge said he was "satisfied" that Roberts did not properly
supervise Nitu – who has who returned to Romania – and that
Anne was left chained for "an excessive period of time" under
the time that Anne was chained she did not have sufficient space and ability
to move as required by good practice and this I regard as a very serious
problem," the judge said.
chief executive, Jan Creamer, 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
said Anne's life had improved since she moved to Longleat but added: "We
urge Longleat to find Anne a companion as a matter of urgency; she has been
on her own for too long and should finally be happy with one of her own
kind to share her days with."
said it would respond later to the judge's criticisms of how it operated.