Pair to face elephant cruelty trial
The owners of a circus elephant called Anne are to go on trial charged with causing unnecessary suffering.
Bobby and Moira Roberts were not present at Corby Magistrates' Court, in Northamptonshire, but had attended court briefly earlier. They left before their preliminary hearing because they were not required to attend.
Their solicitor John Whiston indicated to magistrates during the five-minute hearing that the couple will plead not guilty to causing the elephant unnecessary suffering, failing to take reasonable steps to prevent an employee from causing unnecessary suffering, and failing to ensure the elephant's needs were met.
The couple, of Brook Farm in Oundle, Northants, will go on trial before magistrates in Corby on June 18 next year.
The Crown Prosecution Service took over the prosecution of Mr and Mrs Roberts from Animal Defenders International (ADI) "given the public concern over the case".
The charges have been brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The pair are accused of keeping Anne, a 58-year-old elephant brought from Sri Lanka to the Bobby Roberts Super Circus in Peterborough in the 1950s, chained to the ground at all times.
They are also accused of failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating Anne. The arthritic elephant is now living at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire to see out her days in a 13-acre paddock, with her owners' consent.
The couple were originally the focus of a private prosecution by ADI, a worldwide animal welfare organisation, following its undercover investigation and filming between January 21 and February 15.
Speaking outside court, Jan Creamer, ADI's chief executive, said: "ADI conducts investigations into the use of animals in commercial circumstances, especially entertainment like circuses, and we've been monitoring Anne for some years. We got an opportunity to take some remote footage of Anne in her barn during the winter rest period.
"Really this is a test case for us because, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, owners of animals have a duty of care to provide their animal with protection from harm and a suitable environment."