Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

First court appearance for circus bosses charged over cruelty to Anne the elephant

Posted: 30 November 2011. Updated: 30 November 2011

In a landmark case, the trial of Bobby and Moira Roberts will begin tomorrow the 1st December at Corby Magistrates Court for offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in relation to the mistreatment of “Anne”, who was the last remaining UK circus elephant.

This preliminary hearing follows the announcement earlier this month by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that it had agreed to take on the prosecution from the animal protection organisation Animal Defenders International (ADI), who had carried out a detailed investigation into the welfare of Anne and other animals at the winter quarters of the Roberts’ circus in Peterborough from 21st January to 15th February 2011.

Given the public concern over the case, the Director of Public Prosecutions agreed that the CPS take over and continue the legal proceedings against the Roberts.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “We were pleased when the CPS agreed to take over the case, and feel satisfied that at long last those ultimately responsible for the management of the business will now be scrutinized for their animal husbandry methods.

“This will be the first trial of a circus under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and will be an important test of whether the Act can protect animals in circuses, and more broadly make owners of animals in commercial establishments responsible for what happens to their animals.
“Ultimately, ‘the duty of care’ of owners under the Act will be tested, and it will be interesting to see how this will be interpreted and enforced.”

It is notoriously difficult to gather and process evidence of cruelty and suffering in circuses, due to the nature of the business and Animal Defenders International hopes to see this landmark case succeed.

ADI is fully committed to the exposure of suffering in circuses and we will never stop the investigations and the campaigns until all animals are free of circuses.

Anne is a 58 year old female elephant brought from Sri Lanka to The Bobby Roberts Super Circus in the 1950s. Anne was subsequently transferred to a safari park with the owners’ consent.


Media contact:

Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International, 07716 018250, 0207 630 3344,


The private prosecution was commenced by ADI on 18th July 2011 at Northampton Magistrates Court. Now that the CPS is prosecuting the case, the adjourned first appearance will take place at Corby Magistrates Court on the 1st December at 10.10am. At that hearing the court is likely to give directions in preparation for the trial.

Mr and Mrs Roberts are jointly charged with the following offences:

1. Causing the elephant to suffer unnecessarily, by requiring the elephant to be chained to the ground at all times, contrary to section 4(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006
2. Failing to take reasonable steps to prevent their employee from causing unnecessary suffering to the elephant, by repeatedly beating it, contrary to section 4(2) of the same Act
3. Failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of the elephant were met to the extent required by good practice, contrary to section 9 of the same Act

ADI’s recent report “Out of Control” provides clear evidence that the Government’s proposals for a circus inspection system is doomed to failure. The lack of access to previous inspection reports confirms that a statutory licensing system that lacks transparency and accountability will perpetuate the suffering of wild animals and will also fail. View the report here -

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.


© Animal Defenders International 2019