[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 18 May 2007, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
SpongeBob monkey thief is freed
SpongeBob the squirrel monkey (picture from Chessington Zoo)
SpongeBob was found playing with children in a park
A man jailed for a year for stealing a rare squirrel monkey from a theme park has been freed by the Court of Appeal.

Marlon Brown, 23, was among a group who removed the endangered Bolivian monkey from Chessington World of Adventures in south-west London in July 2006.

He denied the theft but traces of his blood were found in SpongeBob the monkey's enclosure, a court heard.

But judges quashed the sentence and replaced it with a community order involving 50 hours of unpaid work.

They said while there was "clearly some element of dishonesty", the offence was "primarily an ill thought out prank by young men in high spirits".

Good character

Mr Justice Henriques said: "No doubt they thought that the removal of the monkey was a very entertaining pursuit at the time and doubtless very soon came to regret it.

"In the experience of this court this may well be a unique venture and not one to be repeated."

SpongeBob's theft sparked a nationwide appeal to help find him.

He was spotted two days later playing with children in Clapham, south London - near Brown's home.

Mr Justice Henriques said Brown, of Brixton, south London, "had been very anxious that his associates should return it".

He said due to Brown's good character and the fact that the monkey was returned in good health, a custodial sentence was unwarranted.

Man guilty of rare monkey theft
23 Mar 07 |  Southern Counties
New home for SpongeBob the monkey
14 Sep 06 |  Southern Counties

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific