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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v J Hodgson - Written Reserved Decision dated 5 September 2018

Created on 06 September 2018

BEFORE A NON-RACEDAY JUDICIAL
COMMITTEE UNDER THE RACING
ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)
INFORMANT

JACOB HODGSON
RESEPONDENT

Non-Raceday Judicial Committee: Mr Murray McKechnie, Chairman and Mr Gavin Jones, Member

Present: Mr Simon Irving representing RIU

   Mr Andrew Cruickshank RIU Investigator

   Mr Jacob Hodgson

   Ms Ingrid Archer

   Ms Naomi O’Regan

   Mr Ron O’Regan, support person for Ms O’Regan

   Mr Warwick Robinson, Registrar


HEARING HAMILTON 31ST DAY OF AUGUST 2018

RESERVED DECISION OF NON-RACEDAY COMMITTEE

DATED THIS 5th DAY OF SEPTEMBER 2018


1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
1.1 Mr Hodgson is charged with a breach of Rule 62.1(w) of the New Zealand Greyhound Rules of Racing. That rule is as follows:

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.

1.2 It is said that on the 11th day of June 2018 at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri, having previously been warned about making a false statement to an Investigator Mr Hodgson made a false statement to an Investigator while that Investigator was carrying out an investigation, thereby committing a breach of Rule 62.1(w) of the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing and Mr Hodgson is therefore liable to the penalty or penalties which may be imposed pursuant to Rule 63.1 of the said Rules. At the time of the alleged offending (11 June 2018) Mr Hodgson was a licenced handler. He is no longer licenced under the Rules of Greyhound Racing in circumstances which we shall later explain.

1.3 By a decision of an Appeals Tribunal of the Judicial Control Authority dated the 8th day of May 2018 Mr Dennis Schofield was disqualified for a period of two (2) years commencing on the 8th day of June 2018. Mr Schofield was a licenced trainer with a large number of dogs in work. The kennels where the dogs for which Mr Dennis Schofield was responsible are situated on the property at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri. At all relevant times Mr Dennis Schofield lived at Devonport on the North Shore in Auckland. His son Mr David Schofield and his partner Ms Archer resided at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri. Living with them was Ms Archer’s son the Respondent Jacob Hodgson.

1.4 It was necessary for Mr Dennis Schofield to make alternative arrangements for the training of the greyhounds before the 8th day of June this year. An application was made to Greyhound Racing New Zealand to have his wife Mrs Pam Schofield licenced as a trainer. The Committee was told that the application was declined. It was explained to the Committee in the course of the hearing that a few days before the disqualification was to take effect arrangements were put in place for the training to be done by Ms Naomi O’Regan a licenced trainer. That was sanctioned by Greyhound Racing New Zealand subject to certain conditions which included requiring Mr David Schofield and Ms Archer to vacate the property for a period of time. Ms O’Regan in her evidence, to which more detailed reference will be made later, told the Committee that she had known the Schofield family for some twenty (20) years and had worked at the Schofield kennels some years earlier.

1.5 Mr David Schofield was not licenced under the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Rules and had been previously warned off. It was Ms O’Regan’s evidence that she believed that she may have been in breach of the rules by associating with a person who had been warned off.

1.6 Mr Dennis Schofield had a number of greyhounds entered for races at the Manukau Raceway in Auckland on Sunday the 10th day of June 2018 including the dog Trip to Eden in the prestigious Silver Collar.

2. MS O’REGAN’S POSITION
2.1 Ms O’Regan gave detailed evidence to the Committee and answered questions from Mr Hodgson and the Committee members. Ms O’Regan was at times distressed and tearful. She plainly felt uncomfortable. That did not detract from her veracity. Her father Mr Ron O’Regan was present as a support person.

2.2 Ms O’Regan recounted that she was contacted by Mr Dennis Schofield in early June and it was agreed that she would take over the training of the dogs, would be paid a wage and reside at the property at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri. Ms O’Regan recounted that she was told that Mr David Schofield who had recently been warned off would move from the property and that Ms Archer and Mr Hodgson would be moving from the property soon after her arrival. Ms O’Regan went to the property on the 7th day of June. She explained that soon after Ms Archer gave her a piece of paper which outlined how she was to train the greyhounds and how they were to be fed. It was Ms O’Regan’s belief that Mr David Schofield had prepared that document. The Committee was told that this made Ms O’Regan feel uncomfortable as she had been told that she was to be the trainer, that Mr David Schofield would not be at the property and would have no involvement in the training of the dogs. Ms O’Regan stayed overnight but recounted that she felt so uncomfortable that she did not stay overnight thereafter. She travelled to and from her home address in Paeroa each day.

2.3 The Silver Collar meeting was held in Auckland on Sunday the 10th day of June. Ms O’Regan travelled to the property at Paetai Road Rangiriri at 7.00a.m. She told the Committee she saw Mr David Schofield at the property. She travelled with Ms Archer and the greyhounds to Auckland and recounted that Ms Archer would not permit her to lead Trip to Eden to the start in the Silver Collar final. The Committee sets out paragraph 18 of Ms O’Regan’s written brief of evidence:

It was almost as if I were redundant. My name was on the training licence but I had limited, if any authority or decision making ability”

Ms O’Regan said that she was so concerned that she spoke to her father who is a licenced public trainer. She returned to 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri with Ms Archer and the dogs that had been racing and then went to her home at Paeroa. When the dogs were returned to the kennels at Paetai Road Rangiriri there was some discussion between Ms O’Regan, Ms Archer and Mr Hodgson. Each was questioned closely about that conversation. Ms O’Regan told the Committee that she was not feeling well and was upset by what had occurred at the race meeting that day. In answering questions from the Committee Ms O’Regan explained that she had told Ms Archer that she was “feeling uneasy”. Further Ms O’Regan said that at the race meeting she had told a number of persons that she would not be turning up at the kennels on the following day, the Monday. She said that amongst those she spoke to was a Stipendiary Steward. She told the Committee that she did not tell Ms Archer or Mr Hodgson that she would not be turning up at Paetai Road Rangiriri on the Monday.

2.4 Ms O’Regan recounted that soon after 10.00a.m. on Monday the 11th day of June 2018 she received a phone call from the RIU Investigator Mr Cruickshank and was asked by him why she was not at the training facility. She said that she explained the position to Mr Cruickshank who then asked her if she was sick. Ms O’Regan told the Committee that she said to Mr Cruickshank that she was not sick and had not been sick. At about 10.17a.m. Ms O’Regan received a text message from Mr Hodgson which read “Hey Naomi. Andy Cruickshanks here. Told him u r sick”. Ms O’Regan did not reply to the text message from Mr Hodgson. The text message was made available to Mr Cruickshank. A printout of the text message was made available to the Committee as Exhibit “1”.

2.5 Ms O’Regan told the Committee that at around 7.30p.m. on the evening of Sunday the 10th day of June 2018 after returning from the races at Auckland she was with her father who rang Mr Dennis Schofield and that her father spoke to Mr Schofield about the events that had occurred at the race meeting and advised Mr Schofield that his daughter Ms O’Regan was upset. It was Ms O’Regan’s further evidence that she herself spoke to Mr Schofield on the phone and told him that she would no longer be involved with training the greyhounds.

2.6 An assessment of Ms O’Regan’s evidence will be set out below following the consideration of the evidence of Mr Cruickshank, Mr Hodgson and Ms Archer.

3. EVIDENCE OF MR CRUICKSHANK
3.1 Mr Cruickshank is a Racing Investigator employed by the RIU. He has held that position since 2014.

3.2 Mr Cruickshank told the Committee that on the 30th day of January this year he had attended the training facilities of Mr David Schofield at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri and had spoken with Mr Hodgson. He had been told by Mr Hodgson that Mr David Schofield was not resident at the property. Subsequent inquiry established that Mr David Schofield was in fact at the property and Mr Hodgson apologised for misleading Mr Cruickshank. The Committee was told that Mr Hodgson was as a result formally warned for making a false statement.

3.3 On the 11th day of June this year Mr Cruickshank went to the property at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri. He knew that Ms O’Regan was a licenced trainer responsible for the kennels at that address. He met with Mr Hodgson and asked him where Ms O’Regan was as he wished to speak with her. Mr Cruickshank recounted that Mr Hodgson replied “she was not there because she was sick”. Mr Cruickshank said that he questioned Mr Hodgson further about Ms O’Regan being sick and was told that Ms O’Regan had not come to the property that day because “she was sick”. Mr Cruickshank then spoke with Ms Archer and asked her where Ms O’Regan was. Ms Archer replied that Ms O’Regan was not there that day and that she was at her home. Mr Cruickshank further explained that he told Ms Archer that Mr Hodgson told him that Ms O’Regan was sick. Ms Archer replied “Ms O’Regan was not feeling well that morning and that she had not been well the previous day in Auckland”.

3.4 Mr Cruickshank told the Committee that he found the explanations “very odd” and that at around 10.10a.m. he phoned Ms O’Regan. She told him that she was not sick nor had she been sick. He recounted that Ms O’Regan went on to say that she was not going back to the property after the way she had been treated and the compromised position she had been put in the previous day. He said that she told him that her reputation and integrity were being compromised and that she did not want to be involved in what she described as “a sham”.

3.5 Mr Cruickshank then travelled to Ms O’Regan’s home in Paeroa where he met with her, her father and her mother. He spent some two (2) hours in the company of Ms O’Regan and expressed the view that she was not sick had did not appear to have recently been sick. In the course of the meeting Ms O’Regan told Mr Cruickshank of the text message from Mr Hodgson and this was read. The text message was subsequently forwarded to Mr Cruickshank.

4. EVIDENCE OF MR HODGSON
4.1 Mr Hodgson did not travel to the race meeting on the 10th day of June 2018. He was present at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri when Ms O’Regan and his mother Ms Archer returned from Auckland. He told the Committee that there was a conversation with Ms O’Regan about her wellness. He said it was a brief conversation. He was clear that he took from the conversation that Ms O’Regan was feeling unwell.

4.2 Mr Hodgson told the Committee that at about 7.30a.m. the following morning, Monday the 11th day of June, he received a phone call from Mr Dennis Schofield. He said he was told that Ms O’Regan would not be coming to the kennels that day as she “had a panic attack and was not feeling well”.

4.3 Mr Dennis Schofield did not give evidence. Mr Hodgson was unable to locate a reference to that telephone call on his mobile phone. Mr Hodgson told the Committee that he had discussed the position with Mr Dennis Schofield who he said told him that he could not give evidence because he was disqualified. That is not the correct position and Mr Schofield could have given evidence. There is nothing in the Rules of Greyhound Racing which prevents a disqualified person giving evidence before a Non-Raceday Judicial Committee.

4.4 Mr Hodgson told the Committee that he informed his mother Ms Archer of the conversation with Mr Dennis Schofield and recounted that he had been told Ms O’Regan “had a panic attack and was not feeling well”.

4.5 Mr Hodgson did not dispute the account given by Mr Cruickshank of the conversation which had taken place between them at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri on the morning of Monday the 11th day of June 2018.

4.6 Mr Hodgson told the Committee that he did not seek to mislead Mr Cruickshank: rather that as a result of the conversation with Ms O’Regan when the dogs were returned to the kennels following the Auckland race meeting at which conversation his mother Ms Archer had been present and the telephone call from Mr Dennis Schofield at around 7.30a.m. that morning he genuinely believed that Ms O’Regan was unwell and that this was the explanation for her not being at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri.

4.7 It was clear from the account given by Mr Hodgson of the discussion with Mr Cruickshank and from the unequivocal evidence of Mr Cruickshank that nothing had been said to Mr Cruickshank by Mr Hodgson in relation to the discussion that took place when the dogs were returned to the kennels on the Sunday nor was anything said to Mr Cruickshank about the conversation Mr Hodgson said took place with Mr Dennis Schofield earlier that morning.

5. THE EVIDENCE OF MS ARCHER
5.1 Ms Archer’s relevant evidence was with reference to the conversation that she said took place when the dogs were returned to the kennels following the race meeting in Auckland on the Sunday. She said that while it was a brief conversation Ms O’Regan had made it known that she was feeling unwell. Ms Archer could not recall the precise words that were used. Ms Archer had been with Ms O’Regan for most of Sunday from around 7.00a.m. onwards. Ms O’Regan in her evidence made it clear that she was upset during the course of the day for the reasons set out above under paragraph 2.

6. ANALYSIS
6.1 In order to prove the charge the RIU must demonstrate to the Committee’s satisfaction that when Mr Hodgson spoke to Mr Cruickshank on the morning of the 11th day of June he made a statement which he knew [emphasis added] was false. It is therefore necessary to determine Mr Hodgson’s state of knowledge. There was no evidence given to suggest that when Mr Hodgson spoke to Mr Cruickshank he had any information to suggest that Ms O’Regan would no longer be training at what might be described as the Schofield kennels. What Mr Hodgson did know, upon the evidence which he gave, was that Ms O’Regan was not well. This knowledge he had from the conversation which took place when the dogs were returned to the kennels and from the conversation he had with Mr Dennis Schofield. As to the conversation when the dogs were returned to the kennels his mother Ms Archer corroborated his account of that conversation albeit that the precise words used could not be recalled. Of critical importance was the response from Ms O’Regan when asked by the Committee if such a conversation had occurred upon the return from the race meeting. Ms O’Regan could not dispute that such a conversation may have occurred. Her inability to recall the position precisely does not detract from her integrity as a witness. The Committee has already noted the upset and distress that these proceedings have caused Ms O’Regan and it is believed that she sought to give an honest account of events. Ms Archer for her part had told Mr Cruickshank that Ms O’Regan had not been well the previous day in Auckland and that is consistent with what Mr Hodgson and Ms Archer recalled being discussed upon the dogs being returned to the kennels.

6.2 Mr Hodgson could have been a great deal more informative when spoken to by Mr Cruickshank. He did not relate to Mr Cruickshank the conversation which he deposed to before the Committee. Nor did he tell Mr Cruickshank of the conversation which he said occurred with Mr Dennis Schofield at around 7.30a.m. that morning. Had that information been made available to Mr Cruickshank the investigation may well have moved in a different direction.

6.3 For the reasons set out in this paragraph the Committee believes that there is a real possibility that when Mr Cruickshank questioned Mr Hodgson the latter did have reason to believe that Ms O’Regan was unwell and that this unwellness was the explanation for her not being at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri that morning. To sustain a charge under Rule 62.1(w) it must be demonstrated that the person who makes the statement in question knew it to be false. On the evidence from Mr Hodgson and Ms Archer spoken of above and mindful of Ms O’Regan’s quite uncertain account of the conversation that took place upon the dogs being returned to the kennels on the Sunday following the meeting in Auckland the Committee cannot be satisfied that Mr Hodgson knew the information he gave to Mr Cruickshank was false. For that reason the charge cannot be sustained and is dismissed.

7. SUBSEQUENT EVENTS AND COSTS
7.1 During the course of the hearing the Committee was told that in early August this year racing investigators went to the kennels at 13 Paetai Road Rangiriri. It is understood this was to serve documents in relation to the charge before the Committee. There was an altercation in which both Mr Hodgson and Ms Archer were involved. At that time both were licenced handlers under the Rules of Greyhound Racing. As a result of the events that took place on that occasion NZ Greyhound Racing has revoked the handlers licence in respect of both Mr Hodgson and Ms Archer. If they wish to seek to be relicensed they must make formal application to Greyhound Racing NZ. It follows from what has just been said that when this charge came before the Committee on the 31st day of August Mr Hodgson was no longer licenced. In response to inquiry from the Committee Mr Cruickshank made it clear that the RIU nevertheless wished to proceed with the charge, influenced in part he explained by the occasion in January of this year when Mr Hodgson had been given a formal warning for making a false statement.

7.2 There are occasions when unsuccessful prosecutions result in a costs award being made in favour of the person who has been found not guilty of the charge. That can occur when the person charged has been able to positively demonstrate that the charge was not proven or on occasions when an inappropriate charge has been brought. Neither situation exists here. The RIU had good grounds to believe that Mr Hodgson had given advice to Mr Cruickshank which he knew to be untrue. If Mr Hodgson had given to Mr Cruickshank the detailed explanation that he gave to this Committee then, as remarked earlier in this decision, the inquiry may have taken a different course. Mr Hodgson was unhelpful when spoken to by Mr Cruickshank on the 11th day of June. The text message sent by Mr Hodgson to Ms O’Regan after Mr Cruickshank had spoken to Mr Hodgson understandably raised the level of suspicion and concern. For these reasons there will be no costs award in favour of Mr Hodgson. The Judicial Control Authority has been put to considerable expense. In the somewhat unique circumstances outlined in this decision neither party (the RIU or Mr Hodgson) will be required to make any contribution to the costs incurred by the Judicial Control Authority.

DATED this 5th day of September 2018


________________________________
Murray McKechnie
Chairman Non-Raceday Judicial Committee

 

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