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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v D Poutama - Decision dated 1 May 2017 - Chair, Mr T Utikere

Created on 04 May 2017

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 D POUTAMA

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr Tangi Utikere (Chairman), Mr Tom Castles (Committee Member)

Appearing: Mr M Austin (for the Informant) – Mr D Poutama (as the Respondent)

Also Present: Ms L Doody

Venue: Judicial Room, Manawatu Raceway

Date of Hearing: 26 April 2017

Date of Written Decision: 1 May 2017

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

[1] Mr Darcy Poutama appears before this Judicial Committee on an alleged breach of Rule 87.1.f.iv of the New Zealand Greyhound Rules of Racing.

[2] The committee was in receipt of the Notice of Judicial Committee Appointment, the Authorisation to Charge from Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) General Manager Mr Mike Godber and a copy of Information A4457.

[3] Information A4457 alleged a breach of Rule 87.1.f.iv by Mr Poutama at the Wanganui GRC's Meeting on 22 February 2017. It specifically alleged that he: "...used offensive language towards the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club track staff at the conclusion of Race 7."

[4] Rule 87.1.f.iv states:

"Any person (including an Official) commits an offence if he/she:... uses improper, insulting or offensive language in either written or spoken form towards, or in relation to: ... any other person having official duties in relation to Greyhound racing."

[5] Mr Poutama attended the hearing with the support of his mother, Licensed Greyhound Trainer Ms Liz Doody.

[6] He confirmed that he had received all the relevant documentation, understood the rule and admitted the breach.

RIU SUBMISSIONS

[7] For the RIU, Mr Mike Austin presented a Summary of Facts which touched on the following salient points:

[8] During the running of race seven KIRKHAM HARVEY (Ms L Doody) went amiss and completed the race some distance behind the rest of the field to finish on to the lure.

[9] The greyhound had obviously sustained an injury during the running of the race and the dog was captured at the lure.

[10] Whilst track staff were waiting for a radio call as to whether the motorised cart was needed to go and collect the dog or not, Mr Poutama yelled abuse at the track staff from a short distance. Some of the alleged comments were "you useless f***ing c****" and "useless f****".

[11] Soon after the incident the Assistant Curator, Mr Josh Richardson, approached Mr Austin and wished to lodge a complaint of offensive language and abuse from Mr Poutama. The recorded interview taken at the time with the Assistant Curator has been forwarded to all parties. As a result of this complaint, Mr Austin spoke to and recorded an interview with Mr Poutama later on in the meeting. Mr Poutama felt that the track staff were being too slow to react to the injured dog.

[12] The Information lodged with the JCA also noted that Mr Poutama had elected to plead guilty to the charge.

[13] In response to questions from the committee, Mr Austin confirmed that the incident was not broadcast on Trackside Television. He also stated that two people had heard the comments that Mr Poutama had made, and that those two individuals had been spoken to by the RIU as part of the investigation process.

MR POUTAMA'S SUBMISSIONS

[14] Mr Poutama provided verbal submissions that touched on the following:

[15] On 22 February at Wanganui, his mother's dog KIRKHAM HARVEY had broken down on the first bend. His mother had caught him by the sprint boxes and it was clear that he had a broken hock. His mother stood on the track hugging the dog and from that he knew it was not good.

[16] He stated that his mother had to wait there for awhile until the track staff bought the bike around to collect her and the dog. When they had arrived around by the Vet's Room Mr Poutama had taken the Greyhound from his mother and proceeded into the Vet's Room. His mother had tried to come in but he had sent her out as she was very emotional and did not cope well with dogs breaking down. As a result of the injury, KIRKHAM HARVEY was subsequently euthanised.

[17] Mr Poutama believed that animal welfare was very important to him, and the industry. He apologised for swearing at the track staff but wanted the committee to consider the fact that the Wanganui track staff had simply stood and watched when a dog had broken down rather than going to help.

[18] Ms Doody told the committee that it was not the first time KIRKHAM HARVEY had raced at Wanganui, and provided written submissions that were consistent with Mr Poutama's version of events.

[19] In response, Mr Austin identified that there was no policy as to where a motorised motor vehicle should be located on a track. He also stated that Health and Safety considerations meant there were restrictions on who could drive such a motor vehicle. He also confirmed that there was a cart at the 520m for the starter to use in an emergency.

[20] Mr Austin had spoken to the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club but advised that this was their issue to sort with their staff.

DECISION

[21] As the charge was admitted, the charge is deemed to be proved.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

[22] Mr Austin presented the following written Penalty Submissions:

"Mr Darcy Poutama has admitted a charge under GRNZ rule 87.1.f.iv of using offensive language directed to the Track staff at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club meeting on 22 February 2017.

AGGRAVATING FEATURES:

1. Mr Poutama has made no attempt to apologise to the Staff for his actions.

2. Mr Poutama, in my opinion, has not shown any remorse.

3. The language was offensive and demeaning to the Staff.

FINES IMPOSED PREVIOUSLY FOR TYPE OF OFFENCE:

1. 7-11-2016 RIU v M Hamilton – NZTR Licenced Trainer used abusive and offensive language towards an official. Fined $500-00.

2. 11-1-2016 RIU v D Schofield - used foul and abusive language in the proximity of license holders at a greyhound meeting. Fined $300-00.

3. 11-2-2017 RIU v S Dickson – HRNZ Trainer/Driver use of foul language towards a Stipendiary Steward. Fined $850.

4. 5-3-2014 RIU v C Weir – GRNZ Licenced Trainer sent email containing offensive language to GRNZ official. $200 fine.

5. 16-08-2013 RIU v L Phillips – GRNZ Licenced Trainer insulting language to a Club official. $350 fine.

6. 4-3-2015 RIU v W Hodgson – GRNZ Licenced Trainer offensive language to a Steward. $400 fine.

7. 27-03-2015 RIU v J Lane – GRNZ Licenced Trainer offensive language towards Stewards. $300 fine.

Based on the overall circumstances considered in this case, the RIU would seek the Committee to consider a starting point of $350 for a monetary fine."

[23] In response to questions from the committee, Mr Austin agreed that a recent decision of RIU v C Weir (19 April 2017) had been released, but that this post-dated his Penalty Submissions, and that the circumstances related to a second breach of this rule by Mr Weir.

[24] Mr Austin also accepted that Mr Poutama's apology about his behaviour was genuine and that the purported lack of remorse was no longer an aggravating factor.

[25] Further, he agreed that Mr Poutama was upset at the point of his outburst with the inappropriate language, confirming that he was mentally upset about what physically had happened to his mother's dog on the day.

[26] He advised that the RIU were not seeking any costs in this matter.

[27] In making Penalty Submissions, Mr Poutama asked the committee to consider that this was the first time he had appeared before a Judicial Committee. He also informed the committee that a couple of days after the incident he had apologised to a person whom he had directed his offensive language towards, and that he had accepted his apology.

REASONS FOR PENALTY

[28] The committee considered all of the submissions placed before it. The JCA Penalty Guidelines do not identify a starting point for a breach of this rule as each incident is to be fact dependant and the context of the specific breach must be considered.

[29] It is clear that Mr Poutama was frustrated about the practice of track staff on the day, after his mother's Greyhound, KIRKHAM HARVEY, had broken down. Mr Poutama, and Ms Doody, understand that the issues of frustration that they have raised with this Judicial Committee are best placed being raised with the local club and more broadly with Greyhound Racing New Zealand.

[30] While Mr Poutama's submissions provide explanations around the context of this breach, they do not absolve him of his responsibilities under the Rules. It was his choice to use the language that he did, and it is clear to us that such language was inappropriate and offensive.

[31] The previous cases that Mr Austin has kindly referred us to, all have varying degrees of similarity; however, all of those decisions do indicate that Judicial Committees have found the conduct of the respondent unacceptable. That is also the case with regard to this breach.

[32] While we understand the emotion surrounding his mother's dog breaking down, Mr Poutama has had the benefit of time to reflect, and upon reflection, he understands that he reacted badly on the day. We agree with Mr Austin and believe that his apology during the hearing is a genuine one.

[33] We have determined, that in the context of this specific breach, the appropriate starting point is a $350 fine.

[34] In mitigation, we have applied his admission of the breach and his clean record under this rule. We have also noted his remorse and understand his reasons for wanting to address the Judicial Committee in person. While he had indicated that he had apologised directly to one of the individuals, the committee is not in receipt of any other information to support that action.

[35] In aggravation, we have considered that his language was vulgar and directed at industry participants who were simply doing their job.

[36] After considering all factors, we consider a $250 fine as appropriate.

PENALTY

[37] Mr Poutama is fined $250.

COSTS

[38] As this was held on a Raceday, at the RIU's request, there will be no costs order in their favour.

[39] While there have been costs incurred by the JCA, the committee accepts that Mr Poutama had genuine submissions that he wished to make at a hearing. Accordingly, there will be no order for JCA costs made.

Signed at Palmerston North this 1st day of May 2017.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

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