Snakey Joe's charms fail to impress long arm of the law

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The Independent Online
SNAKEY JOE, Saturday and Sunday were causing a stir outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Marble Arch, west London when the long arm of the law intervened, writes Will Bennett.

Saturday, a 6ft (1.8m) Royal python, was curled around Snakey Joe's neck, while Sunday, a baby Indian python, was curled up in a tight ball in his hand.

Their owner, a snake dancer for 20 years, had been draping them around the necks of onlookers and taking photographs. It was a cold March evening and Constable Christine Woodcock decided pythons ought to be at home in the warm. She arrested Emmanuel Nortey - alias Snakey Joe - and called in the RSPCA.

Yesterday Mr Nortey, 53, of Bromley, south-east London, faced a private prosecution brought by the RSPCA at Wells Street magistrates' court, central London. He denied causing unnecessary suffering and ill-treatment. Lawyers battled over when a python becomes cold and what constitutes ill-treatment. The court was told the air temperature was 13-14C.

Martin Lawton, a vet and reptile expert, told the court: 'The most stressful thing that can occur to a snake is being taken from a warm environment into a very cold environment because it is going to lose body heat very quickly.' The case was adjourned until October.