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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v J McInerney - Reserved Decision dated 29 July 2020 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 31 July 2020

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

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

BETWEEN S W WALLIS, Chief Stipendiary Steward, Greyhound Racing

Informant

AND J McINERNEY of Darfield, Licensed Handler

Respondent

Venue: Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Judicial Committee: R G McKenzie, Chair

S C Ching

Present: Mr S W Wallis, the Informant

Mr J McInerney, the Respondent

Mr R A Quirk, Registrar

Date of Hearing: 24 July 2020

Date of Decision: 29 July 2020

RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

FACTS:

Following the running of Race 8, kiwikiwihounds.co.nz Adoption Sprint, an Information was filed by Chief Stipendiary Steward, Mr S W Wallis, against Licensed Handler, Mr J McInerney, alleging a breach of Rule 62(1)(o) in that Mr McInerney, as the Handler of MITCHAM QUEEN in the race, “boxed MITCHAM QUEEN in an improper manner by failing to do so at the instruction of the Starter. Consequently [sic] causing the Starter an undue delay in signalling the Lure Driver to activate the lure.”

The Information was served on Mr McInerney at the race meeting, to be brought before a Judicial Committee at a later date. The hearing of the Information took place after the race meeting of Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club at Addington Raceway on 24 July 2020.

Mr McInerney had signed the Statement by the Respondent on the Information form indicating that he did not admit the breach, and he confirmed this at the hearing at which he was present.

Rule 62(1) provides as follows:

Any person (including an Official) commits an offence if he/she:

(o) has, in relation to a Greyhound or Greyhound racing, done a thing, or omitted to do a thing which is negligent, dishonest, corrupt, fraudulent or improper, or constitutes misconduct.

SUBMISSIONS:

Mr Wallis stated that MITCHAM QUEEN showed no difficulties being boxed. Handlers, Mr P Norris and Ms L Waretini were handling greyhounds to be boxed in boxes 8 and 4 respectively, in the same line as MITCHAM QUEEN. They had boxed their dogs when the Starter called for the final line to be boxed. Mr Wallis produced written statements from those persons, in which each confirmed that they had boxed their dogs as soon as the Starter had given the instruction to do so. Mr McInerney did not object to admission of those statements nor to the statement from the Starter later produced.

Mr Wallis showed to the hearing a video replay of the seconds before boxing. Mr McInerney was boxing MITCHAM QUEEN in box 2, he said. He pointed out the first line box and Mr Norris and Ms Waretini, in the second line, move forward and box their dogs and walk away. Mr McInerney was still well back at this point, Mr Wallis alleged. Approximately 5 seconds elapsed from that point, Mr Wallis alleged, until Mr McInerney boxed MITCHAM QUEEN and walked away, completing this in 10 seconds from when he would have been instructed to do so.

Mr Wallis then produced a written statement from the Starter, Mr G McCormick. He stated that he called the last line, and that is when Mr Norris and Ms Waretini would have boxed their dogs. He did not see Mr McInerney “lagging back” until he was shown the video. Asked to describe the way Mr McInerney boxed MITCHAM QUEEN, he replied “very poorly, well back, it was almost like the other dogs were in the boxes before he even attempted to box his”.

Mr Wallis submitted that Mr Norris and Ms Waretini could be seen to walk away, their dogs having been securely boxed. It was at that point that the Starter should have activated the green light but, he demonstrated on the replay, there was delay of approximately 5 seconds before the Starter was able to do so, having had to await Mr McInerney boxing his dog.

Mr Wallis submitted that the breach fell within the provisions of Rule 48 of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing:

48.2 The Starter may give all such orders and take all such measures as he/she considers necessary to ensure a fair start.

48.9 The Starter shall be responsible for ensuring that:

(d) Races are started without undue delay by signalling to the Lure Driver to immediately activate the Lure.

Rule 48.9(d) is intended to ensure that all dogs are boxed and the lure activated as soon as possible, so that the dogs are in the boxes no longer than is necessary, Mr Wallis said.

This breach would normally be dealt with by way of a Minor Infringement, Mr Wallis said.

Mr McInerney asked Mr Wallis to explain the manner in which Mr Norris and Ms Waretini walked up with their dogs and “pushed” them in and was it “common practice”. Mr McInerney explained that his practice was to lift the dog off the ground and place it in the box to ensure it was straight and settled, right at the front of the grille. Mr McInerney said that he was focussed and listening for the Starter’s call, not watching the other two Handlers.

Mr McInerney put it to Mr Wallis that the procedure for boxing under the social distancing requirements under COVID-19 Level 3 caused a delay in boxing and starting races. Mr Wallis agreed but submitted that this was not relevant in the present case, as other considerations applied at that particular time. Mr McInerney also questioned whether handlers should be observing social distancing of one metre under Level 1.

He had boxed his dog as soon as instructed to do so by the Starter, Mr McInerney submitted, and he had not been slow. The other two Handlers had “shuffled forward” prior to the Starter calling, he submitted. Had they not done so, the three dogs would have gone in at the same time, he said. The other two dogs were in front of him when the call to box was given.

Mr McInerney also suggested that the Handler of the greyhound drawn in box 1 was hindering his being able to box MITCHAM QUEEN.

Mr McInerney then presented to the Committee two medical certificates as evidence of a back injury. He submitted that the back injury, while not justifying a Handler delaying boxing his or her dog, meant that he was unable to “rush” as much as he could if injury-free. Mr Wallis said that he was not aware, before now, of the existence of any medical certificate.

Mr McInerney then told the hearing that, on the raceday in question, the kennel had 38 dogs racing and three staff. He handled in at least 80% of races and every time he would box the dog in the same manner. Mr Wallis disputed that Mr McInerney would usually stand back as he had done in boxing MITCHAM QUEEN.

Mr Wallis said that Stewards had spoken to Mr McInerney on an earlier occasion that, if he was to box his dogs by lifting them into the boxes, then he needed to lift the dog when the front line goes in, so that he can move forward and box when the second line moves in. Mr McInerney had agreed to that, Mr Wallis said. However, Mr McInerney said he could not recall that conversation.

The Committee asked Mr McInerney if it would be, or could be seen as being, advantageous to MITCHAM QUEEN by boxing her late. His reply was there would be no such advantage and that was not his intention.

DECISION:

The Committee finds the charge proved.

REASONS FOR DECISION:

The Committee heard quite lengthy evidence and submissions from both parties but, essentially, there are two questions for the Committee in deciding whether the elements of the charge have been established. Firstly, did MITCHAM QUEEN contribute to Mr McInerney being not able to load with the other two dogs in the last line and, secondly, did he cause an undue delay to the start by failing to line MITCHAM QUEEN with those other two dogs?

With regard to the first of those matters, it was not apparent from the video replay that there was anything untoward in the behaviour of MITCHAM QUEEN that led, or contributed to, a delay in its being loaded. Indeed, Mr McInerney at no stage raised this as a part of his defence. So, it is purely the actions of Mr McInerney that the Committee is concerned with.

Mr McInerney, in his defence, raised a number of points. Firstly, he denied that he was slow in loading the dog. However, Mr Wallis was able to show that there was a delay of some five seconds between the boxing of the other two greyhounds being completed and the boxing of MITCHAM QUEEN. That may seem an insignificant delay but we are satisfied that, in the context of this race, Mr McInerney’s actions were blameworthy.

Secondly, Mr McInerney argued that the other two handlers of dogs in the last line had, effectively, anticipated the Starter’s call by “shuffling” up to the boxes, whereas Mr McInerney remained waiting for that call in what, he considered to be, an acceptable position.

Mr McInerney also asked the Committee to consider that he had a unique way of loading a dog – by lifting it off “all fours” and placing it in the box. Mr Wallis readily accepted that Mr McInerney loaded his dogs in this manner. This is clearly an acceptable technique, provided that he is able to do so in a timely manner. The Committee is satisfied that, in this instance, Mr McInerney was slow in loading.

We attach no weight to Mr McInerney’s submission that his access to box 2 was hindered by the Handler of the dog in box 1, who had not fully moved away. The Committee was satisfied, from the video evidence, that this was not the case. Nor do we attach any weight to the medical certificates produced by Mr McInerney. We do not question his back injury. However, Stewards should have been advised of this, at the time of the accident, as being likely to affect Mr McInerney’s ability to perform loading duties. Furthermore, this was not given in explanation to Stewards when questioned following MITCHAM QUEEN’s race and, significantly, we note that the certificates were both dated 15 July 2020, the race having been on 6 July. To explain the alleged breach as being a consequence of an injury appears to have been by way of an afterthought on Mr McInerney’s part.

The Committee was satisfied that Mr McInerney boxed MITCHAM QUEEN in an improper manner, as alleged, by failing to do so at the instruction of the Starter, thereby causing the Starter to delay signalling the Lure Driver to activate the lure.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS:

Mr Wallis referred to the penalty under the Minor Infringement Scheme, for a breach of the Rule by way of a boxing offence, of a $200 fine. In the event that the Committee finds the charge proved, Stewards would be seeking a fine of that amount, he said.

Mr McInerney indicated that a fine in line with the minor infringement penalty would be appropriate, should the charge be upheld.

PENALTY REASONS:

The Committee is satisfied that there is no reason to depart from the penalty which would have been imposed under the minor infringement regime.

PENALTY:

Mr McInerney is fined the sum of $200.

R G McKenzie

CHAIRMAN

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