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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v B Munro - Reserved Decision dated 28 August 2018 - Chair Mr DM Jackson

Created on 30 August 2018

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A09972

BETWEEN Racing Integrity Unit

MR NICK YDGREN

Chief Stipendary Steward

AND MR BRONSON MUNRO
Junior Driver
Respondent

Rule Breach: 303(2)

Judicial Committee: DM Jackson (Chair) - H Weston (Member)

RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 28 AUGUST 2018

1. Mr Munro admits a charge that he breached rule 303(2) by directing abusive and insulting comments toward other drivers during and after the running of Race 8 at the Forbury Park Trotting Club’s meeting on 15 June 2018.

2. Mr Munro admitted the breach at the first available opportunity and by his agent on the day, Mr John Dunn, countersigned the information recording same, and a penalty hearing in respect of this charge was scheduled for and heard by this Committee on 3 August 2018. Mr Munro was assisted by Mr Robert Dunn during the hearing.

3. The rule provides:
“303…
(2) No person…who holds a…licence under these rules…shall misconduct himself…”

4. The consequences for a breach of the rule are dealt within the general penalties provisions of the rules namely by way of:

“1003(1)…
(a) a fine not exceeding $10,000.00; and/or
(b) suspension from holding or obtaining a licence for a period not exceeding 12 months; and/or
(c) disqualification for a period not exceeding 12 months.”

The Facts
5. A summary of facts was presented by Mr Ydgren and agreed by Mr Dunn on behalf of Mr Munro.

6. The summary records that at the time of the incident Mr Munro was a junior horseman who was engaged to drive a horse called Reddington in a 2200 mobile race for junior drivers. Reddington drew barrier 6 and in the early stages of the race Mr Munro took Reddington forwards and raced to the outside of the leader, Miss Fandango, driven by Charlotte Purvis.

7. Near the 1700m Mr Munro let his horse drive forward and made a brief attempt for the lead. However, Miss Purvis allowed her horse to extend under the whip and it became apparent that she was intent on staying in front and did not surrender the lead.

8. Mr Munro’s drive then raced keenly and although initially restrained by Mr Munro it loomed up beside the leader and raced within a close proximity for approximately 800m. Near the 600m Reddington came under pressure to hold its position and began to weaken.

9. The conduct which sees Mr Munro before the Committee is summarised as follows. On returning to the check-in area Mr Munro and Miss Tomlinson, who drove the trailing Grace Burns, were involved in an incident where the two carts came together and an argument was observed by Stewards. Both drivers were summonsed by Stewards to explain their actions and Miss Purvis was also summonsed for questioning. During questioning by Stewards, it emerged that Mr Munro had directed unacceptable language to both Miss Purvis and Miss Tomlinson during and after the race.

10. The first instance of unacceptable language occurred while Mr Munro was racing in the parked position and making his attempt for the lead. According to Miss Tomlinson Mr Munro raced up beside her and called to Miss Purvis, who was leading, that his horse was racing keenly, that he couldn’t hold onto it and that she should surrender the lead to him. Miss Tomlinson who was racing in the trail called out to Miss Purvis to “get going” and to “stay in front”.

11. Mr Munro responded to Miss Tomlinson’s urgings of Miss Purvis by calling her a “dumb f****** b****”.

12. Unable to get to the front Mr Munro then abused Miss Purvis although Miss Purvis could not recall exactly what was said to her. Miss Tomlinson recalls that Mr Munro called Miss Purvis a “silly dumb b****” and a “dumb f****** b****”.

13. Miss Tomlinson believed the abuse continued throughout most of the race and was directed towards both herself and Miss Purvis. Both women told Stewards that they felt intimidated by Mr Munro and especially by his language towards them.

14. After the race, Stewards were told that Mr Munro had pursued Miss Purvis to offer her some advice on how she would be better served driving her horses in the future. Miss Purvis told Stewards that Mr Munro called her a “silly dumb b****” for not giving up the lead and that “next time you are out here I will get you”.

15. The summary of facts records that Mr Munro admitted the breach at the first opportunity but was yet to apologise to the two female drivers and that otherwise Mr Munro had no prior breaches of the rules, this being his first year back driving following a four-year absence. He is now licensed as an open horseman.

Penalty Submissions
16. Mr Ydgren in his submissions described Mr Munro’s behaviour as bullying and that his language was both abusive and designed to intimidate fellow drivers. His behaviour fell well below the standard expected of a licenced horseman.

17. Mr Ydgren submitted that although Mr Munro had a clear record this was not the first occasion where he had come to the attention of the Stewards, Mr Ydgren provided the Committee with a record of warnings given to Mr Munro by Stewards during 2018 which all involve inappropriate language or otherwise intimidating behaviour on the racecourse.

18. Mr Ydgren submitted that the fact that the abuse was directed towards two female drivers ought to be viewed as an aggravating factor, that the level of offending was mid-range misconduct and that the appropriate penalty was a fine.

19. Mr Ydgren referred to a number of cases involving threatening and abusive language but noted that a previous JCA penalty guideline was in force at the time of those earlier decisions and that the new guide does not provide a starting point for misconduct.

20. Mr Ydgren submitted that the appropriate starting point for Mr Munro’s breach on this occasion was a fine of $500, which ought to be increased because the victims were female. From that Mr Munro was entitled to credit for his good record and admission such that Mr Munro ought to be fined $450 - $500.

21. For Mr Munro, Mr Dunn made a number of submissions which began with his criticism of the practice of drivers these days to yell out or otherwise attempt to intimidate other drivers during racing and that these incidents needed to be dealt with by the Stewards and that there was a degree of inconsistency in their treatment by Stewards noting recent cases of such behaviour in the North Island. For all of that Mr Dunn conceded, properly, that Mr Munro’s behaviour on this occasion was unacceptable and he outlined a number of personal matters affecting Mr Munro, which he submitted ought to be considered by the Committee in reaching its decision as to penalty.

22. Mr Dunn did suggest that Miss Tomlinson may have contributed to the incident by continuing to engage with Mr Munro. Mr Dunn then outlined an earlier incident in Mr Munro’s sporting career which meant that when this incident was picked up by the media, it was “front page news” and that it brought back significant bad memories and attention for Mr Munro. Mr Dunn submitted that not only did it tarnish Mr Munro’s image, but also that of harness racing, which made matters worse and which in and of itself was a significant punishment for Mr Munro to endure.

23. Mr Dunn and Mr Munro clarified that he had apologised to Miss Tomlinson and Miss Purvis, having had a close relationship with Miss Purvis whilst growing up.

24. Mr Dunn and Mr Munro openly discussed some of the personal matters affecting Mr Munro which the Committee will not recount in this decision, but which are connected to his behaviour on this particular occasion and in respect of which Mr Munro has sought help.

25. Mr Dunn said on Mr Munro’s behalf that he would accept whatever punishment was coming to him but did emphasise that this was a young man who was worth the effort and who could, with the effort, improve and redeem himself.

26. Following a discussion between the Committee and Mr Munro, he agreed to pay $200 to the Ovarian Cancer Charity, which charity has become synonymous with female drivers in New Zealand by virtue of their promotion of that charity at times during the racing calendar by wearing turquoise colours during race meetings. The Committee agrees that that would be an appropriate gesture of remorse by Mr Munro and determined to give him time to make that donation.

27. Further, Mr Munro was encouraged to engage with those helping him with his issues and in particular his addressing his temper. The Committee determined to delay its decision in respect of penalty until 24 August 2018 by which time Mr Ydgren was to provide an update on Mr Munro’s progress.

28. Mr Ydgren confirmed to the Committee that the donation was paid, and that Mr Munro had at least engaged with people who were qualified to assist him with his temper amongst other things.

Penalty
29. This Committee does not have jurisdiction to require Mr Munro to make donations to charity or otherwise to actively engage in counselling. That is a matter for him. However, by his taking these preliminary steps towards correcting his behaviour and addressing his underlying problems, he is entitled to credit for both his insight and remorse.

30. Clearly, the circumstances in which Mr Munro comes before the Committee serve him no credit whatsoever. To abuse another driver for not giving him the front during a race was clearly misconduct, but to carry on with that abuse throughout the race and then to continue to abuse not only that driver but another driver after the race was, we accept, bullying behaviour designed to intimidate those drivers.

31. However, the Committee does not accept the submission that because the abuse was directed at females that that, in and of itself, is an aggravating factor. The abuse would have been just as unacceptable had it been directed towards another male junior driver or indeed to an open horseman. The Committee cannot create a special category of aggravating factor based on gender alone. There is no basis for gender discrimination in imposing a penalty. Further, the abuse here was not overtly sexual or misogynistic in overtone. It was ignorant and nasty, but it did not carry with it that sexual or misogynistic overlay, which might have otherwise justified an uplift.

32. We do accept that Mr Munro’s culpability was at least at the medium level. In fact, the Committee determines that it was medium to high on this occasion because it involved a continued and aggressive course of behaviour towards both drivers. It may well have been borne out of Mr Munro’s initial frustration at not getting the front and otherwise at the performance of Reddington, but it was plainly unacceptable and childish behaviour by a young man who cannot keep his cool while under pressure.

33. The Committee’s approach to this in the absence of any assistance from the Penalty Guidelines is that the starting point fine for medium to high level misconduct involving the abuse of other drivers during a race and afterwards is a fine of $750. There will be no uplift for the gender of the victims. To his credit, Mr Munro is entitled to a discount for his immediate admission of the breach, his donation to charity and otherwise for his insight and remorse.

34. The Committee acknowledges that Mr Ydgren sought a penalty which reflected the authorities available to him. However, the guidelines in force then, do not apply now and the Committee takes that as an acknowledgement that Committees should not be tied to precedent in assessing cases of misconduct.

35. The result is that Mr Munro is fined $500.

  

D M Jackson
Chair

 

 

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