Couple to face trial over elephant cruelty allegations

Bobby and Moira Roberts arrive at Corby Magistrates Court, where 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 1, 2011. See PA story COURTS Elephant. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Bobby and Moira Roberts arrive at Corby Magistrates Court, where 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 1, 2011. See PA story COURTS Elephant. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

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A date has been set for the trial of a couple from Oundle who are accused of cruelty towards a circus elephant.

Bobby and Moira Roberts are charged with three offences relating to the care of Anne the Sri Lankan elephant, who was part of the Bobby Roberts Super Circus.

Their case has been in front of magistrates this week and, following hours of legal argument, a trial date has now been set for November.

The couple, of Brook Farm in Oundle, are charged with causing the elephant unnecessary suffering, failing to take reasonable steps to prevent an employee from causing unnecessary suffering by beating, and failing to ensure the elephant’s needs were met.

They have denied all the charges, which include allegedly keeping Anne, who is nearly 60 and was brought from Sri Lanka to the Bobby Roberts Super Circus in Peterborough in the 1950s, chained to the ground at all times.

Animal welfare group Animal Defenders International said it was “delighted” the pair would now face trial.

Tim Phillips, campaigns director at Animal Defenders International, said: “We are delighted that Anne’s owners will finally face trial.

“This is the first test of the intention of the Animal Welfare Act, 2006, which was that owners can be held responsible for what happens to their animals.”

The organisation started a private prosecution, which was brought under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in July last year, but the Crown Prosecution Service later took over.

Arthritic Anne is now living at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire to see out her days in a 13-acre paddock, with her owners’ consent.

Bobby and Moira Roberts are expected to go on trial at either Corby or Kettering Magistrates’ court on November 19.