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  1. ITV Report

Elephant trial: man sentenced

Bobby Roberts, Circus owner Photo: PA Wires

A circus owner who ran Super Circus in Polebrook, Cambridgeshire, has been 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.

The 69-year-old, from Northamptonshire, also failed to ensure the elephant's needs were met by not giving her medication for her arthritis.

His wife Moira, 75, was cleared of all three charges by District Judge David Chinnery following a five-day trial at Northampton Crown Court.

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.

The footage, filmed between January 21 and February 15 2011, also showed Anne constantly chained to the ground.

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 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 court found him guilty of all charges, while clearing Mrs Roberts. Prosecutors said images of the abuse had upset many people.

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."

– Richard Crowley, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands

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.

But the jury rejected his claims today and found him guilty of all charges, while clearing Mrs Roberts. Prosecutors said images of the abuse had upset many people.

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