Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Third Pre-Trial Hearing for "Anne the elephant" Court Case

Posted: 28 March 2012. Updated: 29 March 2012

‘Duty of care and responsibility of owners to be tested in landmark case’

This Friday morning at a pre-trial hearing at Corby Magistrates Court, Northants, Bobby and Moira Roberts will lay out their defence on charges that they failed in their duty of care to protect Anne, the circus elephant, who was filmed by Animal Defenders International (ADI), being beaten and kicked by a worker at their winter quarters in Polebrook last year.

ADI representatives will attend the hearing of this landmark case, as it was their investigation and expose which led to the public outcry and saw Anne being removed to a safari park and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) agreeing to take the case forward.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “Few people will be able to forget the undercover footage that we obtained of Anne and other animals being beaten at the winter quarters last year and we hope to see justice finally served for her.

“This will be the first trial of a circus under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the case is extremely important, as it will test whether the intention of the Act, which is that owners are responsible for the daily life of their animals, can be upheld.

“It will also be an important test of whether the Act can protect animals in circuses, as the UK government currently considers a licensing system for wild animals in circuses.”

This hearing follows a previous hearing in February which saw the legal team of the circus owners criticised by the Magistrate after failing to submit all their defence statements. It will also be the last opportunity for their team to advise whether they plan to attempt to challenge the video evidence, as the Magistrate had noted that he would take a “dim view” of it if a challenge were attempted during the actual trial.

Bobby and Moira Roberts, owners of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, are charged with offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in relation to the mistreatment of Anne. Anne was originally removed from the wild and sold to the circus.

At a preliminary hearing on 1 December 2011 Bobby and Moira Roberts pleaded not guilty to offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in relation to Anne’s mistreatment.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 places on owners a duty of care to protect their animals from harm and to provide a suitable environment. Even if members of staff are employed, the owners are required to take ultimate responsibility for the care of these animals.

A two day trial has now been set starting on the 18th June 2012 at Corby Magistrates Court, then the following day at Kettering Magistrates Court.
ADI will be watching with interest to see how the legislation will be interpreted and enforced.


Media contact:
Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director
Animal Defenders International,
07716 018250 or 020 7630 3344


ADI secretly recorded the treatment of Anne and the other animals in a barn for 3.5 weeks, from 21st January to 15th February 2011.

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.

A private prosecution was commenced by ADI on 18th July 2011 at Northampton Magistrates Court.

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.

Mr and Mrs Roberts have been 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

Animal Defenders International video evidence alleges:

  • That multiple incidents of cruelty took place at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus, located at Brook Farm, Polebrook, Oundle, Peterborough, PE8 5AY.
  • That Anne was chained to the ground by one front leg and one back leg 24 hours a day. During the period of observation, her chains were changed to different legs on two occasions, but during the changeover, she was never completely free at any point; she was always chained by at least one leg.
  • That Anne was given hay throughout the day, but does not appear to be properly fed on a regular basis. The quality of the food appeared to be poor. She had access to water 3 times a day for 11-19 minutes in total on each day.
  • That the number of violent incidents over the whole period was: 48 hits, punches, slaps and kicks.

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.


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