You are here: Home / Non race day hearings / Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v Palmerston North GRC - Reserved Penalty Decision dated 3 September 2020 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v Palmerston North GRC - Reserved Penalty Decision dated 3 September 2020 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 04 September 2020

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

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

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A11690

BETWEEN SIMON ANDREW IRVING, Racing Investigator for the Racing Integrity Unit

Informant

AND PALMERSTON NORTH GREYHOUND RACING CLUB 2014 INCORPORATED

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr R G McKenzie (Chair)

Mrs N Moffatt (Member)

Date of Decision: 3 September 2020

RESERVED PENALTY DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

The Charges

[1] Information No. A11690 has been filed by Racing Investigator, Mr S A Irving, against the Respondent, Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club 2014 Incorporated (“the Club”), alleging that the Club, at its meeting on the 14th day of July 2020 at Manawatu Raceway “being responsible for having two lure drivers in attendance, failed to do so, resulting in the last two races at the meeting being abandoned, when the primary lure driver was absent” in breach of Rules 49.2 and 62.2 of the Rules of New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Incorporated.

[2] Mr Irving filed a letter dated 7th August 2020 from Mr M R Godber, General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the filing of the Information pursuant to Rule 66.2(a).

[3] The Information was served on the Club on 7th August 2020. At a telephone conference held on 13th August 2020, Mr Dave Macauley, Club Racing Manager, advised that the Club admitted the charge.

[4] The charge is found proved accordingly.

[5] It was agreed that the charge could be dealt with “on the papers” pursuant to clause 21.1 of the Seventh Schedule, Common Rules of Practice and Procedure.

[6] Both parties were required to file written submissions in relation to penalty and such submissions have now been received by the Committee.

The Rules

[7] The relevant Rules provide as follows:

“49.2 A Club shall have not less than 2 Lure Drivers in attendance at a meeting and the Stewards may allocate the Races for which any Lure Driver shall drive the Lure.”

“62.2 A Club commits a breach of these Rules if:

(a) it contravenes any of these Rules.

Facts

[8] Mr Irving presented the following Summary of Facts:

1. The Respondent in this matter is the Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club (PNGRC).

2. The President of the PNGRC is Mr Paul Freeman.

3. At the PNGRC meeting at Manawatu Raceway on Tuesday, 14 July 2020, Race 10 was declared a “No Race” following an issue with the lure being driven incorrectly.

4. The lure driver, Mark Beeson, was spoken to by Stewards and reminded of his obligations under GRNZ Rules regarding the lure distance.

5. Mr Beeson took issue with the words and actions of the Stewards and, just prior to the start of Race 11, abandoned his position and left the raceway.

6. Further inquiries revealed there was no “reserve” lure driver available, so the Stewards made the decision to abandon the remaining two races.

7. When later asked why there were not two lure drivers in attendance, Mr Freeman stated that both the usual lure driver and the reserve lure driver were on leave, so the Club had utilised Mr Beeson from Wanganui.

8. In explanation, Mr Freeman stated that he was unaware of the Rule and that he could have contacted a reserve lure driver at short notice.

9. Those affected by the abandonment include the greyhounds that were denied starts, the trainers / owners who missed out on potential stakes and punters, with the cost to the industry estimated at $11,500.

10. The PNGRC elected to pay full compensation of all the stake money divided equally among all entrants of each abandoned race.

11. No charge under this Rule has ever been laid, and no races have ever had to be abandoned due to these circumstances in New Zealand.

Penalty Submissions of the Informant

[9] The Informant filed the following submissions in relation to penalty:

1. The Respondent in this matter is the Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club (PNGRC).

2. The President of the PNGRC is Mr Paul Freeman.

3. The Respondent has admitted a breach of Rule 49.2.

4. The circumstances are detailed in the Summary of Facts (above) which has been agreed.

5. The penalties which may be imposed are detailed in the attached Charge Rule and Penalty Provisions Document.

6. In the recent decision of RIU v Wanganui GRC (05.03.2020) the Committee stated:

This Committee has no jurisdiction to impose a penalty under the provision of Rule 63.2(a) as the discretion to impose such penalty lies with the Board of Greyhound Racing New Zealand or the Stewards. The appropriate penalty considerations for this Judicial Committee lie with the preceding Rule 63.1.

7. The Committee also clarified the following:

A question may arise as to whether a Club could be defined as a “Person” for the purposes of Rule 63.1. We form the view that it could be, after considering the definition of a “Person” under the NZGRA Rules of Racing. (The Rules use the same definition for Person as contained in the NZGRA Constitution).

8. No charge under Rule 49.2 has ever been laid and no races have ever had to be abandoned due to these circumstances in New Zealand. 

9. The RIU has also charged Mr Beeson with a breach of Rule 62.1(q) for conducting himself in a manner that was detrimental to the image and control of greyhound racing by walking out on his lure driving duties.

10. Mr Beeson’s matter is still before the JCA.

11. It is acknowledged that if it had not been for the actions of Mr Beeson then the PNGRC would not have been put in this position.

12. It is also acknowledged that the RIU Stewards “race-day checklist” also needs to include the provision to check and ensure two lure drivers are in attendance at every race meeting.

13. Those affected by the abandonment of the two races include the greyhounds that were denied starts, the trainers / owners who missed out on potential stakes and punters, with the cost to the industry estimated by GRNZ at $11,500.

14. The PNGRC elected to pay full compensation of all the stake money divided equally among all entrants of each abandoned race.

15. The RIU submits that an appropriate penalty for this breach is a fine but with no precedent will leave the amount to the complete discretion of the Committee.

Submissions of the Respondent

[10] The following written submissions were filed by Mr Dave Macauley on behalf of the Respondent Club:

1. As discussed in the conference call dated the 13th August 2020 the Club pleads guilty to the charges presented by Mr Irving. We accept that ignorance of Rule 49.2 should not and cannot be an excuse. However, as Mr Irving pointed out in his Penalty submissions, we could never have envisaged Mr Beeson would leave the course without completing his duties as raceday lure driver.

2. The Club has one employed lure driver and a contracted “back up driver” through the Manawatu HRC, it has never happened before where both drivers were on annual leave on the same day.

3. As stated by Mr Irving the Club made the decision to pay out full stakes for the two races abandoned. The Club accepts these are very hard times for the industry and all participants, and we wanted to support the trainers who missed out on potential stakes through no fault of their own.

4. I accept Mr Irving’s view to proceed under Rule 63.1. The definition of a “person” in Greyhound Racing NZ Rules is very loose and needs reviewing.

5. Finally, mistakes are an opportunity to improve and I believe this situation is no different. I concur with Mr Irving’s penalty submission (para [12]) acknowledging the need to add a check to ensure two lure drivers are present on course before the commencement of the meeting. I am in no way suggesting the Stipes on the day failed in their duties. I accept they made the only decision possible under the circumstances.

The industry is facing hard times due to the world pandemic and it is unacceptable to lose revenue and opportunities for all participants who are struggling in the current environment.

A check on the RIU stewards “Race-day checklist” seems like a prudent step to take to ensure this situation doesn’t repeat itself.

Reasons for Penalty

[11] The relevant penalty Rule is Rule 63.1 which provides:

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.

[12] The Committee agrees with the view taken by the Judicial Committee in RIU v Wanganui GRC (March 2020) that “person” includes a Club. For the purposes of the Rules, “person” is defined as “any individual, company, corporation, partnership, firm, joint venture, association, trust, unincorporated body, governmental or other regulatory body, authority or entity, in each case whether or not having a separate legal entity”.

[13] In the present case, the Club is liable to a penalty under Rule 63.1.

[14] The Club finds itself facing this charge as a direct result of its starter for the raceday, Mr Mark Beeson, taking exception to criticism after Race 10 from the raceday Stewards and leaving the course prior to Race 11, resulting in the last two races at the meeting having to be abandoned.

[15] It is not uncommon for a race or races to be abandoned for any one of a number of reasons, but it seems that races having to be abandoned as a result of the lure driver forsaking his duties is unprecedented. The Club has clearly been let down by Mr Beeson in this case.

[16] The Club’s culpability was in not having a second lure driver in attendance at the meeting, as required by Rule 49.2. It is surprising that, according to the Summary of Facts, Club Racing Manager, Mr Paul Freeman, was unaware of such a requirement. It is surprising because, while it could not have been reasonably foreseen what happened in this case, it could surely have been foreseen that a lure driver may become indisposed during the course of a raceday by reasons of, for example, illness or injury.

[17] The Club should not have been placed in the position by Mr Beeson of having to abandon the last two races. However, it has failed in its duties to owners, trainers and the betting public in not being prepared for an eventuality where the lure driver, for whatever reason, is unable or unwilling to carry out his duties and, in this respect, the Club is clearly culpable. The Rule exists for just such a reason. The Club’s admission of the breach is acknowledgement of this.

[18] The Committee needs to consider the aggravating and mitigating factors in arriving at an appropriate penalty. The Informant has identified the principal aggravating factor as the effect on the greyhounds that were denied starts, the owners and trainers who missed out on potential stake earnings and punters. The cost to the industry has been estimated by Greyhound Racing New Zealand at $11,500. We have not been told how that figure was arrived at. We see the mitigating factors as being the Club’s frank admission of the breach, its previous good record and that it has mitigated the loss to connections by dividing the stake monies for each of the abandoned races among the entrants of those races. In addition, the Club has lost the benefit of the turnover on the abandoned races.

[19] We have had regard to the need to hold the Club accountable for the offending, the need to promote in the Club a sense of responsibility for and an acknowledgement of that offending, the need to denounce the omission and the need to deter other Clubs from committing the same or similar offences.

[20] Calculation of the fine to be imposed cannot be a precise exercise. There is no similar case to assist us in this respect. The circumstances of this case are unique.

[21] Weighing up all factors, it is the decision of the Committee that the Club, Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club 2014 Incorporated, shall be fined the sum of $1,250.

Penalty

[22] The Club is fined the sum of $1,250.

Costs

[23] There will be no order as to costs.

R G McKENZIE

(Chair)

Document Actions