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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v R Gurney - Penalty Decision dated 13 November 2020 - Chair, Hon J W Gendall QC

Created on 16 November 2020


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

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A11017

BETWEEN MIKE AUSTIN, Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit


AND RON GURNEY, Club Official (Lure Driver)


Judicial Committee: Hon JW Gendall QC (Chair)

Mr N McCutcheon (Member)

Heard on the papers: 13 November 2020



(1) The RIU charged the Respondent under Rule 62.1.o through having been negligent in that he, as the lure driver, “was not in position in the Lure Driver’s room when the all clear to start the Race was given by the Starter with the greyhounds being left in the [starting] boxes for an excessive amount of time which necessitated the Stewards declaring Race 1 [at the Wanganui GRC meeting on 28 October 2020] a “no race” under Rule 52.1”.

(2) Mr Gurney admitted the charge.


(3) Mr Gurney was the official Lure Driver at the Wanganui GRC meeting on 28 October 2020. In Race 1 the greyhounds were all in the starting boxes and the Starter activated the green light and gave the required “all clear signal”. Normally the lure is put in motion within a very short time. In this case it was not done for 25.08 seconds which was an excessive delay for the boxed Greyhounds. There were no mechanical issues and the Respondent was simply not in the room at the required time. The Stewards declared the Race to be a “no race” because of this.

(4) The Respondent admitted that he was negligent and in breach of Rule 62.1.o and expressed genuine remorse and regret to the Stipendiary Steward and the Club.


(5) We do not regard the penalty of a fine of $1,500 imposed in the case of RIU v Beeson as having any application in this case. That was an unusual case with aggravating factors and the RIU does not suggest that it can be a guide in this case. The Informant sought a fine of $500.

(6) We received submissions from Mr Gurney which emphasise his genuine remorse, apology and embarrassment. He has had a lifetime connection in the various Racing Codes including acting as a Judge and Assistant Judge for several years, and 8 years as a Lure Driver at Palmerston North and 2 years at Wanganui. He explained that he, through pure oversight, did not hear the Judge pass on the “Kennel Load Up“ call to the starter on his RT.

(7) The error or lapse by the Respondent here was inadvertent and obviously not intended. It was a mistake but nevertheless careless or negligent, which requires some penalty. The race had to be declared “no race” with consequences to those Owners who otherwise would have earned stakes. As well as to those Punters who might have won returns on the Race and will have lost their “gains” (although those who may have lost wagers on beaten greyhounds were given a reprieve!). The percentage of turnover, small as it may have been, was lost to the Code.

(8) A starting point of $500 fine is adopted. But, as was highlighted by the Supreme Court in the leading case of Hessell v R, genuine remorse (as opposed to simply claiming it ) and acceptance of error may be given weight in any sanctioning decision . We also give significant weight to the lifetime and decades of service, in many areas, given to the Industry and the impeccable reputation and record of Mr Gurney. And we recognise that “the penalty fits the circumstances of the offence and offender” as well as the interests of the Code, those who participate in it, and the wider community. Accordingly, we allow a significant discount for the many mitigating features that exist.

(9) We impose a fine of $250. There is no order as to costs.

Hon J W Gendall QC


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