Circus owner found guilty of causing elephant unnecessary suffering

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A circus owner has been given a three-year conditional discharge after being found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an elephant.

Bobby Roberts, from Oundle, 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 Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus in Polebrook, near Oundle, also failed to ensure the elephant’s needs were met by not giving the animal medication for arthritis.

He was given a three-year conditional discharge at Northampton Crown Court on Friday. He 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, a 58-year-old Asian elephant called Anne, being struck with a pitchfork by a groom.

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

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

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

The legs of the elephantcould also be seen to buckle several times.

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

But the jury rejected his claims and found him guilty of all charges.

Following the verdict, Richard Crowley, deputy chief crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service 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.

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

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