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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v J McInerney - Decision dated 25 May 2019 - Chair, Prof G Hall

Created on 29 May 2019

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF

THE JCA AT INVERCARGILL

IN THE MATTER of the Rules of New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association (Incorporated)

BETWEEN

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Informant

AND

JOHN MCINERNEY

Licensed Public Trainer

Respondent

Information No. A11155

Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman

Mr M Conway, Member

Appearing: Mr K Coppins, Stipendiary Steward, for the Informant
The Respondent in person

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

[1] Information A11155 alleges that Mr McInerney is in breach of r 45.11 in that he presented PRINCELY GOLD (#1 Race 7) 1.6 kg below its last racing weight from 24 January 2019. This is Mr McInerney’s fourth offence under this rule within 120 days.

[2] Rule 45.11 states:

Where the weight of a Greyhound recorded at a Meeting varies by more than one and a half (1.5) kilograms from the weight recorded in a Race in which it last performed that Greyhound shall be permitted to compete in the current Race but the Trainer of the Greyhound shall be guilty of an Offence unless permission has been granted under Rule 45.12 [which we note has no application in this case].

[3] The matter was part heard at Ascot Park, Invercargill, on Sunday 31 March.

[4] The informant produced evidence from Mr Richard Ronald, Director of Southern Weighing Services, by way of a signed statement.

[5] We required that Mr Ronald be available by way of telephone to permit Mr McInerney to cross examine him.

[6] During the course of this teleconference Mr Ronald stated that he wished to view the scales in question in operation on a raceday. Mr McInerney agreed with this and also offered to make a greyhound available for weighing before the commencement of the meeting.

[7] Mr Ronald attended the Invercargill GRC meeting on 23 April and witnessed the greyhound JOE BONANZA being weighed.

[8] Mr Coppins then produced a supplementary report from Mr Ronald.

[9] A further teleconference was held at which we heard submissions from Mr Coppins and Mr McInerney.

Informant’s case

[10] Mr Coppins stated that the greyhound PRINCELY GOLD was an entrant for the Southland GRC meeting at Ascot Park Raceway on 5 February. It is trained by Mr McInerney.

[11] Mr Coppins said the scales had been checked prior to kennelling on the day as per r 41.2 and 41.3. The scales read 25kg and this was reported as such in the race day report, viz "Scales: Correct at checked weights".

[12] PRINCELY GOLD was weighed in the usual manner by kennel stewards and found to be 1.6kg down in weight from its previous race weight. Mr Coppins said it is accepted practice to re-weigh a greyhound if it falls outside the 1.5kg allowance.

[13] PRINCELY GOLD’s official weight on the day was 31.6kg, down 1.6kg. On 24 January (12 days prior) PRINCELY GOLD weighed 33.2kg.

[14] When advised of the weight variation by Mr Coppins, approximately an hour after kennelling, Mr McInerney stated he was not aware of the weight issue as his kennel staff had not informed him. Mr McInerney asked if the Stewards could re-weigh the greyhound again in his presence.

[15] Mr Coppins said that, while this is not usual practice, he allowed it to happen as Mr McInerney had not been aware of the issue. One of the Southland GRC kennel stewards, Ms S Garthwaite, assisted.

[16] PRINCELY GOLD was re-weighed, twice, in the presence of the kennel steward and the trainer. During the re-weigh it weighed 31.47kg on each occasion. Ms Garthwaite advised Mr Coppins that this figure would be rounded up to 31.5kg. This would make the variation 1.7kgs, ie 100g difference from the officially recorded weight, but still outside the 1.5kg allowance. Mr Coppins said this additional 100g discrepancy could be due to any number of factors.

[17] Mr Coppins said that since starting back in the role of Stipendiary Steward in September 2018 he had officiated at 12 meetings in Southland, having been chair at nine. At all 12 meetings he had followed the same process of checking the scales prior to kennelling. There had been 1328 dogs weighed and during this time there had only been three weight infringements at a Southland GRC meeting. Of the dogs weighed, 586 of them were trained by Mr McInerney. He said no trainers, other than Mr McInerney, had expressed concerns to him. He believed if the Invercargill scales were not accurate there would have been more weight issues at the track.

[18] Mr Coppins added that at the last four meetings at the track there had been no weight issues. Mr McInerney commented this may have been due to the 1.5 kg tolerance.

[19] Mr Coppins also provided statistics as to the comparative weights of a random sample of dogs at Ascot Park on 5 March and at Forbury Park on 7 March. These figures demonstrated that the dogs tended to weigh lighter at Invercargill than they did at Dunedin. He said this could be due to a number of factors, including travel. He emphasised in his opinion it was not evidence that the scales were weighing incorrectly.

[20] Mr Ronald, Director of Southern Weighing Services, gave evidence for the informant. This was by way of two signed statements. Mr Ronald also produced certificates of accuracy for the scales, including one that was current on the day PRINCELY GOLD was weighed, 5 February 2019.

[21] In the first of his statements, dated 19 March 2019, Mr Ronald described how if an item was placed too far to one side of the weighing platform this would cause weighing errors. With a greyhound, if the dog is placed in the middle of the cage and the weight is spread evenly across the weighing platform, this would give an accurate result.

[22] Mr Ronald also gave oral evidence. He reiterated that the fact there was an overhang of the cage on the platform was “okay” if the weight was centred in the middle. He said the dog in the cage on the platform would weigh accurately as the weight would be distributed equally across the platform. If the dog was at one end of the cage, the weight would not be accurate.

[23] Mr Ronald said the test weights should be checked from the middle and then with a weight on each side. If the weights were on the outside of the cage and thus over the platform, it would not be likely to return a correct weight.

[24] Mr McInerney questioned Mr Ronald. He said the weights could be placed anywhere on the scales at Otago and Christchurch and the weights would weigh correctly. Mr Ronald said he could not comment on this as he had not seen these scales, but the weights should not be placed on the corners of the cage. They should not go over the outside edge of the weighing plate, on the overhang, as this would give an error. He said he would put a weight in each corner of the platform but not over the overhang.

[25] Mr Ronald agreed with Mr McInerney that it was desirable that the cage could fit in its entirety on the weighing plate, so there was no overhang. He said if a dog was sitting on the plate it would weigh accurately.

[26] Mr Coppins said the four legs of the dog were on the platform and thus the weight would be spread over the entire platform and would not be concentrated in one area.

[27] Mr Ronald acknowledged that he had never seen a dog weighed on the scales at Invercargill. It was agreed that Mr Ronald would attend the meeting on 23 April and observe the scales in operation.

[28] Mr Coppins produced a further report from Mr Ronald dated 24 April 2019. He said on testing the scales on 23 April he found that they performed exactly the way they should do. He said he observed a dog being weighed and saw no error when the dog was moved from one end of the cage to the other. The movement of the dog was minimal as when its tail was up against the rear of the cage its nose was almost touching the other end. In fact, the owner had to push the dog forward more than would normally happen when a dog is in the cage and, on doing this, the scale read the same regardless of where the dog was in the cage.

[29] Mr Ronald continued by stating that although the cage extended over the edge of the weighing platform, this did not cause weighing errors as the weight of the dog was spread across the whole cage. On doing further tests he placed a 20kg weight on the overhang at one end and a 10kg weight on the overhang at the other end and the reading was steady on 30kg “proving that even if a dog is heavier at either end it has no effect on the accuracy of the scales.”

[30] Based on these observations Mr Ronald said he was “of the opinion that when weighing dogs the way they are currently being weighed no error of any kind is present.”

Respondent’s case

[31] Mr McInerney’s defence to the charge centred around the contention that the scales at Invercargill were faulty and weighed light.

[32] Mr McInerney said he had been concerned about the fact that the scales at Invercargill were not weighing accurately for some time. He had raised the issue with the Club and the Stewards.

[33] Mr McInerney said that when weights were placed on either end of the weighing platform, inconsistent weights were evident. He said this was not a feature of the scales at other venues and believed it was due to the size of the weighing platform at Invercargill, which had an overhang.

[34] Mr McInerney said when a 20 kg weight was placed anywhere on the scales it should show 20 kg, however at Invercargill it would sometimes show between 13 and 16 kg.

[35] Mr McInerney believed that the weight that would be shown on the scales would depend on where the dog stands. He believed the bigger the dog, the bigger the discrepancy as the dog would have its front and back legs at the ends of the platform. He said this would cause the scales to tip and this he believed was the reason for the dogs weighing light at Invercargill. The scales at other venues did not tip.

[36] Mr McInerney added that a dog’s weight is in its hindquarters and it was impossible for a dog to stand in the centre of the base of the cage. He believed a big dog could weigh a kg lighter than it should do. He raised the issue of how much of the dog would be on the overhang. Its front legs would be on, but the back legs would be off and thus on the overhang.

[37] Mr McInerney continued by stating all his dogs tended to weigh light at Invercargill, but it was not generally an issue because of the 1.5 kg allowance. He went so far as to say a dog lost 1 kg immediately because of the scales. He said he was “playing Russian roulette” with his dogs.

[38] Mr McInerney replied to Mr Ronald’s second statement saying that Mr Ronald had said to him the scales were a good make but were old and ideally the weighing platform would extend the full length of the cage.

[39] Mr McInerney raised in the teleconference held after Mr Ronald had viewed the scales that the greyhound JOE BONANZA, which had been placed on the scales for demonstration purposes, had weighed 34.1 kg. Mr Coppins agreed that it had. Mr McInerney pointed out that 15 minutes later, when officially weighed, JOE BONANZA weighed 34.7 kg. Mr Coppins confirmed that was the dog’s official weight on the day. Mr McInerney questioned how this could be. He asserted confidently that the dog had not eaten, stating it may have had a drink, that was all.

[40] Mr Coppins replied that that did surprise him, but he did not know what had happened with respect to the dog in the interim.

[41] Mr Coppins summed up by stating that the dogs did not go to the very edge of the base of the cage, and that they would stand on the scales evenly. Mr Ronald had clearly stated that the scales were fit for purpose.

[42] Mr McInerney replied that the dogs did not always stand uniformly, and he reiterated he believed the larger the dog the greater the problem with the weight. He concluded his submissions by stating when larger dogs were placed in the cage, the platform tended to tilt. There was a definite fault. With respect to the testing of the scales, he said there should not be a need to put a weight on the other end of the scales in order to get an accurate weight.

Decision

[43] We have no doubt that the respondent has genuine concerns with the accuracy of the scales at Invercargill. There is an overhang of the cage at each end of the weighing platform and Mr McInerney has stated that when large dogs, in particular, are placed in the cage, the scales tend to tip. He has questioned whether the scales are accurate in this circumstance.

[44] Mr Coppins has produced a certificate of accuracy for the scales that pertained to the time of the alleged breach.

[45] Mr Ronald, an expert with respect to weighing, is clear in his evidence that after viewing the scales in operation on raceday and testing the scales with the greyhound JOE BONANZA, that the scales were weighing accurately.

[46] The reason for the difference in weight with respect to JOE BONANZA over a period of some 15 minutes is not determined. Mr McInerney suggests it is evidence of a fault with the scales. Mr Coppins understandably can proffer no explanation. We do not speculate.

[47] Similarly, the statistics produced by Mr Coppins show a number of dogs weigh lighter at Invercargill. Again, Mr McInerney points to the scales being at fault. Mr Coppins points to travel as being a probable factor.

[48] The expert evidence before us is clear. The scales weigh accurately and were appropriately certified at the time of the weighing of PRINCELY GOLD. We accept that evidence and find the charge under r 45.11 proved.

Penalty

[49] With respect to penalty, Mr Coppins submitted that a penalty consistent with penalties for a third or subsequent breach of a fine of $300 was appropriate.

[50] Mr McInerney stated that he had spent a significant amount of time on the issue and that the scales had now been replaced with modern scales with a full-length weighing platform. He believed this was a consequence of his concerns with the scales and asked us to take this into account.

[51] We have previously accepted that Mr McInerney’s concerns with the accuracy of the scales were genuine although we have found them not to be substantiated by the evidence before us. He has engaged with the RIU and GRNZ and new scales have been installed at Invercargill. This outcome appears to be the consequence of his involvement.

[52] We believe a small reduction in penalty from the figure of $300 that Mr Coppins has submitted, is appropriate for this factor.

[53] Mr McInerney is fined the sum of $200.

Dated at Invercargill this 25th day of May 2019.

Geoff Hall, Chairman

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