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Animal Defenders International : Animals in entertainment : The Mary Chipperfield Trial: the trial continued

Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The Mary Chipperfield Trial: the trial continued

Posted: 10 January 2006

The day opened with the Cawleys producing for the court a variety of implements with which they hit (or in their court parlance, ‘encouraged’) animals. These included various whips and a fibre glass rod - the metal bars with which the elephants were beaten were not produced.

Mary Cawley took the stand and questioned by Rafferty, claimed Trudy had bitten her and this was why she went to get the stick to hit her. Asked if she caused “unnecessary pain", she replied “No, the chimp has a very tough bottom".

She then squirmed under a ferocious cross-examination from prosecutor Charles Gabb. Referring to her interview with the police, he said: “...You were shown the first clip of Stephen Gills beating Tembo with a large iron bar, double-handed using all his force. You said “it didn’t harm the elephant". She replied, “I still assert that. I said I regularly went to the elephant house, I never saw marks or heard trumpeting".

He asked Mary if she would kick a dog the way she had kicked Jasmine the camel. “If it’s in the way, yes", she replied.

She admitted that she knew Gills had killed someone and that he had extensive convictions, saying “I don’t think killing a person is relevant to killing animals” and that she had made no enquiries about him.

Gills had served eleven years for manslaughter. He came across 28 year old Patricia Woolard on a train, and stabbed her to death.

Gabb confronted her with the fact that she had said in her statement to the police that the attacks on Trudy were in January. In fact the video had been taken in November and December. We are left to wonder if Mary also beat Trudy in January as she herself seemed to think.

She was shown the AD photographs with marks across Trudy’s body. She said these were scratches from another chimp, Teddy. Although not commented on in court, Trudy had not in fact been with Teddy on any of the previous days.

Describing hitting Jasmine with a broomhandle, Mary said “this would start as a tickling".

Finally Gabb asked, “Do you regret anything?” Mary replied, “I don’t regret anything, I have done nothing abusive".

Roger Cawley took the stand and said that his role at Mary Chipperfield Promotions was administration of the whole organisation and that he was a zoo inspector. Questioned by his own barrister he said that he had been informed of Gills violence by Virginia Winter who was working on the farm at the time. He said that his vet had recommended exercise for Flora.

Under cross examination he said he caused Flora no pain, correcting this to say he might have caused a little. Asked why the elephants were shackled all day he said at first he didn’t know but when pressed claimed it was due to staff problems, “Not enough staff. Someone let on short notice. I can’t remember the name".

This was untrue. No one had left during the successive days over Christmas 1997 and the ADs had supplied the court with a video tape (CT7) where on two occasions Roger Cawley specifically instructed Gills to leave the elephants chained. Sadly this was not shown.

Asked when he was first told about Gills beating the elephants, Cawley said that he was told by Virginia Winter his secretary. Charles Gabb pointed out that in a written statement Cawley had sent to the police he claimed he had been told by Terry Stocker and that he had disregarded this, because he thought it was down to ill feeling between Stocker and Gills. In court he conceded that the warnings had come from two people including one long standing colleague - yet still no action was taken.

Gabb asked if Cawley issued a written warning to Gills, Cawley answered, “No, didn’t find it necessary". Cawley claimed “I was vigilant in watching him". Gabb therefore showed the court video clips in which Gills violently attacked elephants whilst Cawley was in the elephant shed, to which Cawley responded “Didn’t notice, I was busy", “I probably had my back to the elephant, the sound of hitting the elephant was the same as that made scraping manure” and “I was with Charles Chipperfield dressing Flora’s boils".

Another clip was shown in which Cawley was seen whipping the elephants in the barn to make them lie down. Asked why he was doing this when the animals had already been sold to Colchester Zoo, Cawley said he had a request from an advertising agent for a quotation for a job. Gabb told Cawley had had no registration under the Performing Animals Act 1925, Cawley replied he wasn’t training.

Cawley was questioned about assaults on the elephants in which he hit them with buckets and metal bars, sometimes delivering nine and ten blows at a time. Each time he said he was attempting to get the elephants to do routine tasks. Asked why he felt it necessary to whip the sick Flora he said “To make it go faster, to maintain speed". Asked why, Roger replied that he wanted to “see how sick it was".

The defence then brought two vets into the witness box, Keith Cutler and Robert Cull, both from the Endell Veterinary Practice which has served the Chipperfields at Croft Farm for the last 23 years (the practice was later the subject of the series Animal ER on Channel 5).

First up was Keith Cutler, who had previously worked at Chessington Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. Early defence questioning was in order to show that Trudy was strong and potentially dangerous - using a stick was ‘appropriate’ and would ‘not have caused pain’.

Asked if there were heating facilities in Trudy’s barn, Cutler said yes, and there were other animals. This was true, except the other chimpanzees were in a different room, and no contact was possible, and from October to January the heating was never turned up.

With regard to the beating of Jasmine the camel, he responded: “Reasonable, camels are stubborn, it takes force to make them stand". Any observers must wonder why anyone is allowed to have a performing camel in the UK when everyone in the industry appears to accept that hitting them hard with a broomhandle is the only way to get them to do what you want. He described whipping Flora to make her go faster as “reasonable".

Under cross examination from Charles Gabb, Cutler became increasingly uncomfortable when asked about specifics, such as kicking Trudy or holding the chimp whilst she was hit. He repeatedly said he could not see what was going on in the videos or whether the blows made contact, but added “...it could be construed as excessive force". Videos were replayed to him, but Cutler was apparently unable to see what everyone else could see.

Cutler claimed the red marks on Trudy could not have been caused by the whip because they were not weal marks - they did not have a white line down the centre with red either side. Gabb pointed out that as the photos were taken the following day they would have become single red lines. Cutler would not even concede this, saying they were more like scratch marks from another chimp (Trudy had not been with another chimp).

Gabb accused him of not being objective, declaring that he had not “voiced one single word of criticism". Cutler eventually conceded that he “saw actions which could have potentially worried me". Next to the stand was Robert Cull, a senior partner in the Endell Practice who had been visiting the Cawley’s farm for 23 years.

The ADs were intrigued as to what Cull would say, as we have video of Cull criticising horse care at Croft Farm, and even saying a tiger was becoming stereotypic. However, he did not voice a single concern about the Cawleys in court.

Under cross examination it transpired that Cull had been called to the police station to view videos of Gills beating elephants and beating the chicken to death - scenes which have been universally condemned. Cull’s reaction was to refuse to comment until he had checked his “professional client obligations". A sad insight for anyone thinking the vet’s primary obligation is to the animal (his patient) rather than his client. Thus in court when Cull was asked, “See anything you thought was wrong re Trudy?” he replied, “I would wish to know my professional obligations towards my clients". Although he did concede “I thought to kick her foot was not something I would recommend". “Acceptable to beat with a riding crop?", “Yes".

Robert Cull claimed that “pain can be a method to get it to do what you want it to do". Gabb asked, “If a dog wouldn’t go into its kennel, would you beat it?", Cull replied, “Yes...” With impressive use of language, Cull said of Mary, “She utilised her foot to project it into the cage". “You mean kick?” Gabb queried, “Yes” replied Cull.

The final defence witness was David Hibbling, ‘artistic director’ for Zippo’s Circus. Hibling had previously worked at Croft Farm (where his Performing Animals Registration is lodged) and presented chimps for Mary Chipperfield. In public, Hibling is a loud exponent of ‘animal welfare’ in circuses. He says animals are not beaten, promotes Zippos’ code of conduct for their horses and replaced Roger Cawley on the Circus Working Group. During the next two days we were to get an interesting insight into what the circus industry considers to be ‘beating’.

The defence asked about the three videos of assaults on Trudy: Did Hibling “See anything which would constitute cruelty?” Hibling replied unequivocally “No". Asked “Would you do what Mary Cawley did?” Hibling replied “Yes". “On the videos (relating to Mary and Roger Cawley) did you see anything cruel?” again Hibling said “No".


The day began with the prosecution cross examination of Hibling. Gabb quoted from Hibling’s biography in which he said he idolised Mary Chipperfield and that the Cawleys had given him his first break in the industry.

Asked if he had beaten a chimp he said “No, reprimanded", later saying he had “slapped” one of his chimps. Gabb asked, “Is thrashing a chimp with a riding crop acceptable?” Hibling replied “In certain circumstances, yes".

When the defence asked its final questions, Hibling said he had himself hit a chimp with a riding crop. “They are loving animals, not sweet tea-drinking things...potentially wild animals, ...short, sharp hit with a stick is justified". Hibling left the stand.

The defence began its closing speech.

The defence first argued against three ‘permitting’ charges against each defendant saying that it hadn’t been proved that the defendants were fully aware of the extent of Gills’ behaviour therefore could not have knowingly permitted it.

On the three charges each of failing to protect elephants, the defence argued that the defendants took some precautions but were not fully aware of the treatment of the elephants. The defence stressed that when the Cawleys hit animals, it was to make them do things.

There were some inaccuracies in this - notably that Gills’ blows to the elephants and his swearing could not be heard outside the shed, which of course they could. Also nothing was made of the days Mary and Roger were away from the farm during the period; when Gills was seen beating the animals when he was alone with them, it was because they were not around at all, not that he was avoiding their presence. The ratio of attacks when the Cawleys were nearby was actually very high. Indeed the ratio of the number of blows by the Cawleys on the elephants, against their time with them, was probably higher than that of Gills during the period observed. Roger had claimed he was “vigilant", yet the whole body of video evidence shows he was hardly ever in the shed to oversee Gills.

The Magistrate was concerned that they had been warned and in fact intervened, saying, “They had been given some notice as to what was going on. Their presence should have been greater, knowing about Stephen Gills".

The defence responded saying that Gills was warned and “Roger Cawley was in the elephant shed every day". This latter point was completely untrue, the ADs had produced logs to show that even on consecutive days, neither of the Cawleys entered the elephant shed at all, but the CPS did not present them to the court.

With regard to Flora, the defence claimed that Cawley was exercising her for her own good and that she had not been hurt by the whip.

Jasmine was only hit as much as was “necessary” to get her to get up and go to the ring. A similar defence was presented for Trudy.

The Magistrate began his judgement by explaining in the burden of proof required. He said that the actions of the Cawleys were not in the same league as Gills and that their violence was always a means to an end.

On the charges of permitting Gills to do what he did, he found the Cawleys not guilty on the basis that they had not been shown to know the extent of his abuse.

On the charges of failing to protect the animals, the Magistrate said “Not all was done that should have been done since they were on notice". Sadly he repeated the untruth that Roger Cawley was in the shed every day and didn’t see anything. Mary Cawley, he noted, was away for much of the time. He therefore concluded, “They did exercise reasonable care and supervision given their circumstances". The way the elephants were kept did not come into this judgement because of the CPS failure to present expert testimony to clarify the tapes.

Given that in reality there was not a single component in the routine to ensure Gills was overseen, or to afford the elephants protection from any member of staff, this seemed extraordinary to many. The ADs had requested that a sanctuary or even zoo manager be called to testify on the management systems in place at Croft Farm. This was not done.

Jasmine was an interesting text case of what is or is not legal in the circus world. The video was clear; Mary twisted Jasmine’s tail, then kicked her, then beat her repeatedly with a broomhandle to get her what she wanted to do. Significantly, the Magistrate noted “The camels were being trained in the ring. It’s not for us to judge if that’s right - it is legal". He deemed the force was necessary and found Mary not guilty. This showed clearly the lack of legal protection afforded to working animals.

The magistrate conceded that Flora needed to be exercised, but believed that because she was covered in boils, was sick and was whipped that she suffered enduring pain. Importantly, he concluded that this suffering was greater than was necessary to achieve the stated objectives, especially as Cawley had forced her to go faster and faster. Roger Cawley was therefore guilty of cruelty.

On the charges relating to Trudy, the magistrate found Mary Cawley guilty on all counts. It was deemed she could have used less force.

Unfortunately, the Magistrate said that because of their previously “unblemished record", he didn’t intend to deprive the Cawleys of any of their animals. However, after the Magistrate had delivered his verdict and before he could move on to sentencing, the defence put in a claim that the Cawleys did not own the animals anyway, and so applied for the return of Trudy to the owner - Mary Chipperfield Promotions Limited. The case was therefore adjourned for legal negotiations.

The defence pointed out that the Protection of Animals Act only provides the Magistrate with the power to deprive the owner of an animals if the owner is convicted of cruelty. We were bitter indeed that the charges brought by the ADs against Mary Chipperfield Promotions Limited, in order to cover this eventuality, had been dropped by the Crown.

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