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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v C J Weir - Reserved Penalty Decision dated 29 June 2018 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 02 July 2018

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand

Rules of Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A6655

BETWEEN PETER ROSS LAMB, Racing Investigator for the Racing Integrity Unit

Informant

AND CALUM JOHN WEIR of Rangiora, Licensed Trainer

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr R G McKenzie (Chair)

Mr D M Jackson (Committee Member)

Venue: Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Date of Hearing: 13th June 2018

Present: Mr P R Lamb, the Informant

Mr S P Renault, Registrar

Date of Decision: 13th June 2018

Date of Penalty Decision: 29th June 2018

RESERVED PENALTY DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

Background

[1] Mr Weir has been charged with a breach of Rule 62.1(o) of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing in that “on the 30th day of April 2018, at Addington Raceway, he has in relation to Greyhound Racing done a thing, namely wilfully damaged a wall the property of Addington Raceway Limited, with that act in the circumstances constituting misconduct.”

[2] Following a hearing on 13th June 2018, this Committee found the charge of misconduct against Mr Weir proved.

[3] The Committee reserved its decision as to penalty and required the parties to file written penalty submissions. Written submissions have now been received from both the Informant and the Respondent.

Penalty Submissions of the Informant

[4] The Informant filed the following penalty submissions:

1. Mr Weir (30 years old) has been charged with a breach of Rule 62.1(o) NZ Rules of Greyhound Racing in that, on the 30th April 2018 at the Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club’s meeting, he wilfully damaged a wall, the property of Addington Raceway, with that act constituting Misconduct. He has plead not guilty to this matter.

2. The penalty provisions that apply in this case are outlined in Rule 63.1

Any person found guilty of an offence under these Rules shall be liable to:

(a) a fine not exceeding $10,000.00 for any one (1) Offence; except a luring/baiting Offence under Rule 86; and/or

(b) Suspension; and/or

(c) Disqualification; and/or

(d) Warning off.

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 reflect the disapproval of the Judicial Control Authority for the type of behaviour in question.

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

All principles are particularly relevant here.

4. Relevant Precedents

The JCA guidelines on penalty (2015) for Greyhound Racing do not list a starting point for this offence. It can therefore be inferred that the starting point for this offence is “fact dependent”.

The following similar level “Misconduct” type cases brought under NZGR Rules have some relevance; -

• RIU v C Weir (05.03.2014) – GRNZ Licenced Trainer sent email containing offensive language to GRNZ official. 1st offence. Admitted. $200 fine (starting point $300)

• RIU v L Phillips (16.08.2013) – GRNZ Licenced Trainer insulting language to a Club official. 1st offence. Admitted. $350 fine (starting point $400)

• RIU v W Hodgson (04.03.2015) – GRNZ Licenced Trainer used offensive language to a Steward. 1st offence. Admitted. $400 fine (starting point $650)

• RIU v J Lane (27.03.2015) – GRNZ Licenced Trainer Offensive language towards Stewards. 1st offence. Admitted. Fine $300 (starting point $400)

Similar offending level breach 2nd offence:

• RIU v C Weir (19.04.2017) - GRNZ Licenced trainer used improper, insulting or offensive language to a Steward. 2nd offence. Admitted. Fine $500 (starting point $500) with the Committee noting that it was “satisfied that a fine of $500 will suffice to satisfy the general purposes of sentencing….and to deter the offender or other persons from committing the same or a similar offence”.

Mid -high range penalties for Misconduct under GRNZ rules:

• RIU v J Goode (31 May 2017 - Penalty Decision) GRNZ Licensed Trainer- Misconduct - abuses and uses foul language to a Racing Investigator. 1st offence. Defended. Licence Suspension 4 months.

Misconduct – verbally abused a Stipendiary Steward using foul language. 1st offence. Defended. Licence suspension 4 months.

(These matters were part of a wider incident which involved other charges).

Relevant Penalty Decisions involving a 3rd Misconduct breach:

• NZGRA V S C Mann (14 Jan 2009). GRNZ Licenced trainer charged with Misconduct after abusing three licence holders and a threat to one of them. The Judicial Committee imposed a penalty of 3 months disqualification on Mr Mann. The Judicial Committee took into account previous misconduct breaches by Mr Mann in 2003 and 2004 and advised Mr Mann that a lengthy period of disqualification would follow for any further misconduct breaches on his part.

• RIU v D D Schofield (24 May 2011) GRNZ Licenced Trainer charged with a misconduct offence. Verbally abused an Industry official. 2nd offence. $1750 fine.

• RIU v D D Schofield (02 June 2011) GRNZ Licenced Trainer charged with a misconduct offence. Threatened another licence holder. 3rd offence. Disqualified 3 months.

From the Harness Racing Jurisdiction:

• RIU v S Dickson (11.02.2017) – HRNZ Trainer/Driver charged with Misconduct (offensive language towards a Steward). 1st offence. Admitted. Fine $850 (Starting point $1000)

Whilst all of these cases are primarily examples of verbal/written outbursts directed at Stewards and/or Industry officials, and not wilful damage to property as with this current case, all can be considered Misconduct in the broader sense. In each of these cases, all offending is the result of poor and unacceptable behaviour by the Respondent.

5. Aggravating Features –

(a) Mr Weir has been involved in the Greyhound Racing industry for a number of years and knows the importance of conducting himself in a professional manner and maintaining integrity in racing.

(b) Mr Weir has never acknowledged his wrongdoing or expressed any remorse for his actions.

(c) Mr Weir has previously been charged with similar type Misconduct offending in 2014 and 2017. This latest offending demonstrates a continued pattern of behaviour which is unacceptable in this Industry.

6. Mitigating Factors

The damage caused to the wall has been repaired, and those repairs have been paid for by Mr Weir.

7. Conclusions

It is expected that licence holders will at all times act professionally and properly. Good character is one of the conditions upon which a licence is granted. Failing to comply with GRNZ Rules and Policies must be viewed seriously and any penalty must act as a deterrent for others.

It is clear from his history that Mr Weir takes issue with officials who regulate the Greyhound industry. Notwithstanding that, there are proper grievance processes in place to deal with areas of dispute and disagreement which Mr Weir will be well aware of due to his experience in the industry.

There are always consequences for actions and, as in this case, those consequences must increase as a result of continued and accumulative breaching of the Industry rules.

This is a first breach of Rule 62.1(o) by the Respondent and as such the Racing Integrity Unit believes that this present offending, in isolation, sits low mid-range.

Mr Weir has twice previously breached similar NZGR rules in respect of Misconduct offending (2014 and 2017). The Racing Integrity Unit holds the view that the accumulative effect of these previous breaches advances this matter to mid- high range offending.

Based on the overall circumstances considered in this case, the RIU would seek the Committee to consider a starting point of $1500 for a monetary fine.

In addition, the RIU seeks a 3-month suspension of Mr Weir’s GRNZ trainers Licence, suspended for 12 months, with the provision that it can be activated by a Judicial Control Authority committee, in the event of any future similar breaches being proved within that 12-month period.

Such a penalty would serve in the form of a “good behaviour” bond. Precedent for this type of penalty can be found in:-

RIU v M Hamilton (11 July 2016) Licenced Trainer NZTR charged with Misconduct, having written an obscene message, in regard to another licence holder, on racecourse signs. Admitted. Fined $500. By consent of both parties, the fine was suspended for a period of 18 months by way of a good behaviour bond.

A similar consideration is sought on this occasion in respect to the suspension of the Trainer’s licence.

The RIU does not seek any costs in this matter.

Penalty Submissions of the Respondent

[5] Mr Weir filed the following penalty submissions:

“Mitigating factors:

• I have arranged to have the hole in the wall fixed straight away

• I have paid the amount of $460 for repairs without delay

• I have had meetings with RIU staff on multiple occasions (including a meeting with Mr Lamb and Mr Grimstone on 30th May) about the harassment received over the past two years which indicates that I have no problem with the authority of the RIU

• This is my first charge under Rule 62.1 (o). Previous charges were Rule 87.1 and 88.1.

Submission of my fine should start at $350 considering it is a first charge under the Rule.

I do not agree with the suspended sentence”.

Reasons for Penalty

[6] The Penalty Guide for Judicial Committees (effective 1 May 2015) does not provide a starting point for penalty for a charge of misconduct under the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing. The default position is that it is “fact dependent” – that is to say, it is left to the discretion of the Judicial Committee, having regard to all of the circumstances of the particular case. Circumstances may vary greatly.

[7] In determining a starting point in this case, the Committee took the view that an appropriate starting point would be that of $700 adopted by the Judicial Committee in the 2017 breach of the Rules by Mr Weir.

[8] Having set that starting point, the Committee, to arrive at a final penalty, needs to adjust it having regard to the various aggravating and mitigating factors.

[9] The sole aggravating factor, as we see it, is the fact that this is Mr Weir’s third breach of a misconduct Rule in just over 4 years. Mr Weir submitted that the previous breaches should not be taken into account by this Committee as they were charges under different Rules. This is the case in respect of the most recent breach which involved “improper, insulting or offensive language” to a Stipendiary Steward but, nevertheless, involved behaviour which could be put under the heading of “misconduct”. However, the 2014 breach was a breach of what is now the misconduct Rule 62.1 (o) and it involved sending an email containing obscene language. It is reasonable to infer that Mr Weir has a problem with authority and even this present breach was a reaction, or overreaction, to having been advised by the Stipendiary Stewards that his greyhound was being stood down, a decision which he did not agree with.

[10] For that aggravating factor, we consider that an uplift of the starting point to $1,000 is appropriate. We assess the seriousness of the breach as being mid-range and have not made any uplift for that factor. Although wilful damage to property, which the Committee has found Mr Weir’s conduct amounted to, should not be minimised, when this breach is looked at, at the end of the day no person, save for Mr Weir himself, has suffered in any way. His actions were a spontaneous and thoughtless reaction to what, in his mind, was another instance of victimisation by the Stewards. The Committee does not accept that there has been any such victimisation. However, that was Mr Weir’s state of mind at the time and, for that reason, it is relevant.

[11] We now turn to consider the mitigating factors. The most obvious, and the sole mitigating factor, is that the damage to the wall has now been repaired and Mr Weir has promptly paid the costs of such repair. This was submitted as a mitigating factor by both parties. We agree that this is a significant mitigating factor and, the Committee considers, warrants a discount of $200 from the uplifted starting point arrived at as above.

[12] Of course, Mr Weir can receive no credit for admitting the breach and neither can he receive credit for showing any remorse for his offending. Mr Weir has remained stoic throughout in the face of overwhelming evidence and, to date, we are not aware that he has made any formal apology or admitted his wrongdoing. His denial of the breach and his lack of remorse are the lack of mitigating factors, but not aggravating factors, in this case.

[13] The Informant has submitted that a suspended period of suspension should be imposed in addition to a fine. The Committee considers that the offending is not of a sufficient degree to require that. However, it is of concern that this breach is Mr Weir’s third, and a pattern of conduct-related breaches appears to be developing. We suggest that any similar offending in the future may well result in a suspension or disqualification, but we repeat that we do not consider that to be appropriate in this case.

[14] The precedents to which the Committee was referred by the Informant were of limited assistance because none related to damage to property. The Committee is not aware of a misconduct charge in any code which involved damage to property.

[15] In deciding that the appropriate penalty is a fine of $800, the Committee has also had regard to the important principles of sentencing – to hold Mr Weir accountable, to promote in him a sense of responsibility for his offending, to denounce his conduct and to deter others from committing the same or similar offence.

Penalty

[16] Mr Weir is fined the sum of $800.

Costs

[17] The Informant did not seek an order for costs. The Respondent is ordered to pay costs in the sum of $350 to the Judicial Control Authority pursuant to Rule 29.1 (d) of the Seventh Schedule of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing.

R G McKenzie

CHAIR

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