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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v B Tapper - Penalty Decision dated 27 February 2019 - Chair, Mr S Ching

Created on 28 February 2019

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

HELD AT RICCARTON

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A7226

BETWEEN K R WILLIAMS, Racing Investigator for the Racing Integrity Unit

Applicant

AND (HECTOR) BRUCE TAPPER, Licensed Trainer

Respondent

Judicial Committee: S Ching (Chairman)

H Weston (Member)

Present: K R Williams, Racing Investigator (for the Racing Integrity Unit)

H B Tapper, the Respondent

Date of Hearing: 22 February 2019

Venue: Riccarton Racecourse, Christchurch

Date of Decision: 27 February 2019

PENALTY DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

The Charge

[1] Information No. A7226 alleges that, being a licensed trainer, (Hector) Bruce TAPPER, assisted or associated with a prohibited person or disqualified person, namely Gordon YORKE for the purposes of sale, purchase, care, breeding, training, or racing of a horse registered under these rules. And you are therefore liable to the penalty or penalties which may be imposed in accordance to Rule 801(2).

The Plea

[2] The Information was served on Mr Tapper on 2 February 2019 at 4.52pm. He had signed the Statement by the Respondent on the Information form indicating that he admitted the breach of the Rule.

[3] Mr Tapper was present at the hearing of the information and confirmed that he understood the rule he was being charged with and that he admitted the breach.

[4] The charge was found proved accordingly.

The Rule

[5] Rule 801(1) (z) provides as follows:

801 (1) A person commits a Serious Racing Offence within the meaning of these Rules who:

(z) being a Licensed Person or Owner or lessee (as the case may be), his Agent or Racing Manager aids or assists or associates with a prohibited person or disqualified person for the purposes of the sale, purchase, care, breeding, training or racing of a horse registered under these Rules;

Authority

[6] Mrs Williams produced written authority from General Manager of the RIU, Mr M Godber, authorizing the lodging of an Information, under Rule 903(2)(d), charging Mr Bruce Tapper with a breach of Rule 801(1)(z) of the Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.

Facts

[7] Mrs Williams presented the following Agreed Summary of Facts:

1. Mr TAPPER and Mr Gordon YORKE have been friends for over 50 years.

2. Mr YORKE had his Trainers licence disqualified in Australia on 21 December 2017 for 18 months for an elevated cobalt level of 4413 micrograms per litre. The disqualification ends on 21 June 2019.

3. Mr TAPPER was aware that Mr YORKE had been disqualified as a trainer in Australia. Mr TAPPER did not ask Mr YORKE if his disqualification had ended and did not make any enquiries with the RIU or NZTR to get Mr YORKE licensed in New Zealand.

4. Mr YORKE visited Mr TAPPER in March 2018 and saw that he had 20 young horses and needed assistance.

5. Mr YORKE arrived in New Zealand in July 2018.

6. Mr YORKE was to assist with the young horses, mares and foals and was to be paid a wage.

7. Mr YORKE drove the horse truck to transport the horses in training from the stable to the Timaru Racecourse.

8. Mr YORKE assisted with educating the horse DOCKET in the starting gates at the Timaru Racecourse.

9. Mr YORKE did not attend any Race meetings in New Zealand.

10. Mr YORKE left New Zealand on 14 January 2019 after having a disagreement with Mr TAPPER.

11. Mr YORKE as a disqualified and unlicensed person worked with the horses for Mr Tapper for three months.

12. Once this matter has been dealt with a file will be forwarded to the relevant Australian Authorities for their attention.

Informant’s Penalty Submissions

[8] Mrs Williams presented the following submissions in relation to penalty:

1. Mr Tapper has pleaded guilty to a breach of Rules 801(1)(z), when being a Licensed Trainer associated with a disqualified person in the care and training of a horse registered under theses Rules.

2. The penalty provisions that apply in this case are outlined in Rule 801 (2).

801 (2) A person who commits a Serious Racing Offence shall be liable to:

(a) be disqualified for any specific period or for life; and/or

(b) be suspended from holding or obtaining a Licence for a period not exceeding 12 months. If a Licence is renewed during a term of suspension, then the suspension shall continue to apply to the renewed Licence; and/or

(c) a fine not exceeding $50,000.

3. Sentencing Principles -

The four principles of sentencing can be summarised briefly

● Penalties are designed to punish the offender for his / her wrongdoing. They are not retributive in the sense that the punishment is disproportionate to the offence but the offender must be met with a punishment.

● In a racing context it is extremely important that a penalty has the effect of deterring others from committing like offences.

● A penalty should also reflect the disapproval of the J.C.A. for the type of behaviour in question.

● The need to rehabilitate the offender should be taken into account.

The first three principles are particularly important here.

4. Relevant Precedents –

In addition to the sentencing principles the Judicial Committee should have regard to the following precedents:

RIU v G Kenny - 4/3/2016 - Thoroughbred Racing

Subject: Rule 317 (1) One charge permitted David James WALKER, a Disqualified rider under the Rules, to assist in riding the horse ‘Casino” in trackwork at her training facility - $500 fine. Extract from decision: “Within the hierarchy of penalties available under the Rule of Racing, disqualification is one of, it not the most, serious penalty available to Judicial Committees. Therefore there must also be deterrent factor for industry participants whose actions attempt to undermine, even by way of ignorance of the rules, the serious sanction that a Disqualification status brings.”

RIU v P Screen - 20/5/2016 Appeal - Harness Racing

Subject: Rule 1001(1)(zd) One charge of assisting or associating with a prohibited person or disqualified person (A Lynch). Originally fined $2,500 reduced to $1,000 on appeal.

RIU v S Robinson - 20/5/2016 - Thoroughbred Racing

Subject: One charge of assisting or associating with a disqualified person (M Hamilton). Fined $350.

5. Aggravating Features –

Mr Tapper did not make any enquiries into whether Mr Yorke’s disqualification had ended.

Mr Tapper did not make any enquiries with the RIU or NZTR into getting a Clearance from Australia or make application for Mr Yorke to get a licence in New Zealand.

Mr Tapper is more than aware of the Rules of Thoroughbred Racing and that it is an offence to employ anyone who is unlicensed. Rule 308 A Trainer must not allow a non-Licensed Person to be involved in the care, control or training of any horse notified to NZTR pursuant to Rule 326(1) as being in his charge for the purposes of being trained.

The fact that Mr Yorke was unlicensed and working in his stable is a breach in itself but the fact that he is a disqualified trainer in Australia and that he would not be granted a license in New Zealand is more serious.

6. Mitigating Factors –

Mr Tapper admits full liability as the trainer and admitted the breach at the first opportunity and has cooperated fully throughout the investigation.

Mr Tapper has been training since 2013 and has very good record for the length of time he has been training. He has only had one minor breach of the Rules, Rule 614 (2), and was fined $50 in 2014.

7. Conclusion –

The Racing Integrity Unit seeks a penalty of a fine of $750.

Mr Tapper has to be given credit for the manner in which he has conducted himself during this enquiry and admitting the breach at the first opportunity however the onus is on trainers to be aware of the Rules and how they pertain to people in their employment.

By employing a disqualified Australian trainer to work in his stable is detrimental to the integrity of the New Zealand Racing Industry.

8. The RIU are not seeking any costs.

Submissions of the Respondent

[9] Mr Tapper explained to the Committee that up to the last few months he did not realise that having Mr Yorke handling broodmares and young horses on his 250-acre property, was an offence. He said he knew Mr Yorke was a disqualified trainer but admitted he did not look at the rules to check whether he could assist him at his property. Over the previous 3 months, Mr Yorke drove his horse float to the Timaru track, from time to time, as he had a truck licence. Mr Yorke, he said, also assisted educating a problem horse in the barrier, being DOCKET, at the course, in this period of time. He said this had been taking place since October when he had been diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitated him travelling to Hamilton for treatment on a regular basis. Mr Tapper stated that Mr Yorke had an issue with alcohol and had become abusive to others, when drinking at the local hotel, which was how he was detected by authorities, as a prohibited person. He said that Mr Yorke had been a long-time friend, being best man for each other at their respective weddings. Mr Tapper added the issues created by Mr Yorke with his alcohol problem was why he had now parted ways with him.

Penalty Submissions of the Respondent

[10] Mr Tapper elected to make no submissions on penalty.

Reasons for Penalty

[11] Mrs Williams was able to refer the Committee to previous similar breaches and penalties in both the Thoroughbred and Harness code which were of some assistance. The penalties imposed ranged from $350 to $1000 with differing circumstances and facts with each case.

[12] The aggravating factors that the Committee determined as relevant are as follows;

-Mr Tapper, despite knowing Mr Yorke was a disqualified person, made no enquiry as to whether working on his farm with young stock and broodmares, was permissible under the rules.

- Mr Tapper, who is more than aware of the Rules of Racing, would have known that it is an offence to employ anyone who is unlicensed under Rule 308. A Trainer must not allow a non-Licensed Person to be involved in the care, control or training of any horse notified to NZTR pursuant to Rule 326(1) as being in his charge for the purposes of being trained.

- The fact that Mr Yorke was unlicensed and working in Mr Tapper’s stable is a breach in itself.

-Mr Tapper made no enquiries as to the time frame of Mr Yorke’s disqualification.

-The length of time that Mr Yorke assisted Mr Tapper at his farm initially, being approximately 3 months. More recently, Mr Yorke assisted Mr Tapper by driving the float to the track and helping with a difficult barrier horse, over a further period of approximately 3 months.

[13] Mitigating factors we determined warranted consideration were as follows;

- Mr Tapper’s admission of full liability and his admission of the breach at the earliest opportunity.

-Mr Tapper’s very good penalty record, being only one minor breach under Rule 614(2), since commencement of his training career in 2013.

-Mr Tapper’s obvious remorse, cooperation and manner in which he has conducted himself throughout the enquiry and at the hearing.

- Mr Tapper’s personal situation.

[14] The Committee, in setting penalty, have taken note of the extract from the RIU v G Kenny case which we determine is relevant with this case:

“Within the hierarchy of penalties available under the Rule of Racing, disqualification is one of, it not the most, serious penalty available to Judicial Committees. Therefore, there must also be deterrent factor for industry participants whose actions attempt to undermine, even by way of ignorance of the rules, the serious sanction that a Disqualification status brings.”

After taking all factors into consideration, including both aggravating and mitigating as noted above, in conjunction with historic penalties for similar offences of this rule, this Committee determined that an appropriate penalty in this case is a fine of $800.

Penalty

[15] Accordingly, Mr Tapper is fined the sum of $800.

Costs

[16] Mrs Williams, on behalf of the RIU, did not seek costs and as this hearing was heard at a race meeting, there was also no order for costs to the JCA.

S Ching

Chair

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