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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v B Hunt - Reserved Decision dated 25 May 2020 - Chair, Mr T Utikere

Created on 29 May 2020

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE

JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the Rules of Greyhound Racing

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT

Informant

AND B HUNT

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr T Utikere (Chairman)

Mrs N Moffatt (Member)

Parties: Mr S Irving (for the RIU)

Mr B Hunt (as the Respondent)

RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 25 MAY 2020

FACTS

[1] The Respondent has been charged with a breach of Rule 62.1(w) of the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing (the Rules).

[2] The relevant Rule is as follows:

Rule 62.1(w) “Any person (including an Official) commits an offence if he/she:

makes any statement which is to his/her knowledge false either orally, by print, in writing, by electronic means or by any combination thereof to a member of the Board, Steward, Racecourse Investigator, Appeals Tribunal, a Judicial Committee, Veterinarian or an Official in the execution of his/her duty;”

[3] The specific Information alleged:

Information No A11683

“On the 6th of March 2020, made a false verbal statement to Steward Mike Austin relating to the late scratching of his dog ‘Epic Spark’, thereby committing a breach of Rule 62.1 (w) of the GRNZ Rules AND IS therefore liable to the penalty which may be imposed pursuant to Rule 63.1 of the said Rules.”

[4] The Committee is in receipt of the Notice of Appointment, an Authority to Charge Letter from the General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU), Mr M Godber, and a copy of the Information. A Hearing was convened via Teleconference on 21 May with both parties, at which Mr Hunt confirmed that he understood the allegation and admitted the breach. We reserved our Decision and are now in a position for it to issue.

SUBMISSIONS

[5] Mr Irving had provided the Respondent and Committee with a Summary of Facts. It identified that the Respondent holds a Licence to train under the Rules, training two dogs at a property near Whanganui.

[6] On 6 March, he had entered EPIC SPARK to race in Race 10 of the Wanganui GRC’s Meeting which was due to start at 9.09pm. At approximately 1.40pm Mr Hunt had telephoned Ms Leanne Bell (Wanganui GRC) stating that he had just got home and that EPIC SPARK was “on three legs” and would need to be a late scratching from Race 10. He advised that he would present the dog to the track on Monday for a vet check.

[7] Ms Bell notified the Stewards who, concerned with the validity of the late scratching, phoned Mr Hunt en route to the track and when he did not answer, left a message including details that he was to present the dog to the RIU on-course vet that evening at Wanganui. This was due to concerns from Stewards regarding the need for the dog, if injured, to be seen by a vet as soon as possible. When Stewards did not receive a response from Mr Hunt, they went to his property to speak to him in person.

[8] Upon arrival it became apparent there was no one home at the property so Steward Mr Mike Austin rang Mr Hunt again. When Mr Hunt answered and was asked the question as to his whereabouts, he replied “I’m at Home“. When requested to come to the door he replied “Oh you’ve caught me out, I’ve lied.” Mr Austin requested he present his dog to the on-course vet that evening and he replied “no I will present her on Monday”.

[9] Mr Austin then reinforced that it had to be done that evening, to which Mr Hunt replied that he had been drinking alcohol. Stewards did not enter the property to check EPIC SPARK for any injury. A short time later Mr Austin rang Mr Hunt back and told him not to bother bringing the dog in to the track given the fact he had been drinking. Subsequently, Mr Hunt did not present EPIC SPARK for a vet check on the Monday and opted to take the 28 day stand down period instead.

[10] Mr Hunt provided a written statement explaining his actions and was formally interviewed on 18 March. He admitted to telling a lie as to his whereabouts. The late scratching of EPIC SPARK also resulted in BIGTIME KATE (G & S Fredrickson) being denied a start. Mr Hunt is 79 years of age and has been extensively involved in the Greyhound Industry since 1957.

[11] In response, Mr Hunt informed the Committee that he was uncomfortable with any suggestion that he was not concerned about his dog’s welfare. He described his background in greyhound welfare at a number of levels over many years and indicated that greyhounds were important to him. He explained that on raceday, EPIC SPARK had jumped up and down and landed awkwardly on her right foot, and he thought she had knocked a toe as she had a limp.

[12] Mr Hunt had checked her on the Saturday morning with concerns about her sesamoid and re-emphasised that if he had any significant welfare concerns he would have ensured the dog was seen by a vet as soon as possible. She was going to race for 10 to 12 days, but due to the limp he was not going to risk it and thought that he was doing the right thing in ringing Ms Bell at the Club. He also noted that EPIC SPARK had not raced since. He had also rung Mr Austin to offer to bring the dog to the track for a vet check that evening to mitigate any suggestions of welfare issues, but said that Mr Austin had told him not to, since he had been drinking alcohol.

[13] He informed the Committee that it was not common for him to tell lies. On the particular day in question, he was simply having a bad day. He did not think the RIU would go to his home to check up on him and he had said “I’m at home” instead of “I'm on the way home”.

[14] In response to a question from the Committee, Mr Irving confirmed that the RIU were accepting of Mr Hunt’s explanation and they were not implying that the dog was significantly injured as there was no evidence to suggest that.

DECISION

[15] As the charge was admitted, the Committee deemed the charge proved.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

[16] Mr Irving noted that there had not been a similar offence of this specific nature found when looking at previous cases. He identified that where there had been a breach related to this subsection of the Rule, or a breach of a Policy, fines in the vicinity of $300 to $500 had been imposed.

[17] He referred the Committee to the previous case of RIU v D Macmillan (Minor Infringement issued on 7 May 2019 at Invercargill) which was a breach of Rule 62.1(cc) which resulted in a $300 Minor Infringement. In addition Mr Irving also referenced the Lloyd (NZGRA v NJ Lloyd Decision of Judicial Committee Dated 15 July 2011), Mann (NZGRA v MP Mann Decision of Judicial Committee Dated 19 November 2012) and Robinson (NZGRA v MA Robinson Decision of Judicial Committee Dated 5 May 2011) decisions in his submissions. He confirmed that the RIU were not seeking any costs in this matter.

[18] In making his brief Penalty Submissions, Mr Hunt confirmed that he had been involved with the Greyhound Racing Industry for more than 60 years. This long history had included serving on the Executive of the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club along with holding other industry positions, with his love of the sport maintaining his interest over this period.

[19] He asked the Committee to take into account his early guilty plea and his good record, confirming he had never appeared on any charges previously in his career. Whilst he was on a pension he submitted that he would pay a fine at a level that the Committee determined to be appropriate. He also expressed remorse for his actions and was intending to also offer an apology to Mr Austin for his behaviour when he next saw him.

REASONS FOR PENALTY

[20] Mr Hunt has been fully co-operative with the process surrounding the charge he faces. While he did not expect the RIU to follow up with a visit to his home after Stewards did not receive a response to their enquiries from him, it is unfortunate that his minor mistruth leaves a slight blemish on what is otherwise an unchequered record within the industry over many years.

[21] While the inference of greyhound welfare may have prompted the visit of the Stewards to his property at the time, once the real circumstances had become known, it seems that any inference to welfare concerns became abated. Based on our assessment of the Respondent we do not doubt Mr Hunt’s passion for his dogs and the respect that he has for their welfare.

[22] We have reviewed the cases Mr Irving has referred to. In Lloyd, the Respondent gave a false statement after an element of collusion with a principal co-offender, following a detailed investigation. In that matter the Committee adopted a starting point of a $400 fine, with the end result being a $250 fine along with costs awards in favour of the RIU and the JCA.

[23] The Robinson case is intertwined with that of Lloyd as it draws on the same particulars. Mr Robinson made a false statement alongside a Prohibited Substance charge and received a three months period of disqualification for the former. This leads us to assess the circumstances of Lloyd and Robinson to be out of kilter with the current case.

[24] In Mann, the Respondent made two false statements on two separate occasions to a Racing Investigator. This case included external Police involvement and a fine of $1,000 and costs in favour of the JCA. The Committee’s Decision outlines that the reduced level of fine that was imposed was due to it being remitted back to it on Appeal, and that the respondent had already served a seven weeks period of disqualification. This Committee considers Mann to be a much more serious form of offending than that of Mr Hunt.

[25] Finally, Macmillan was an offence for which a Minor Infringement was issued. Whilst it is the most recent of the four cases referred to by the RIU, the fact that the current breach before us is not listed on the Minor Infringement Schedule does differentiate it from Macmillan in context. However, having identified this, it does in our view have a clearer connection as to a suitable quantum as to penalty for the current breach.

[26] Having considered the specific characteristics of the current case, we determine a starting point of a $500 fine as appropriate. In mitigation we consider the Respondent’s early admission of the breach, his absolute remorse for his actions and his impeccable record over a 60 year career. In aggravation we must consider the fact that another dog was denied an opportunity to start in the race.

PENALTY

[27] Mr Hunt is fined $350.

COSTS

[28] No costs are sought by the RIU. While the JCA has incurred some costs, on this occasion the Committee declines to exercise its discretion in making a costs award in favour of the JCA.

Signed at Palmerston North this 25th day of May 2020.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

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