A man jailed for a year for stealing a rare squirrel monkey from a theme park has been freed by the Court of Appeal.
SpongeBob was found playing with children in a park
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".
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.