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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v S Lawson - Decision as to Costs dated 17 April 2019 - Chair, Prof G Hall

Created on 18 April 2019




AND IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing




Licensed Horseman


Information: A8707 & A8708

Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman

Mr D Jackson, Member

Appearing: On the papers


[1] By written decision delivered on 5 March 2019 the Committee suspended Mr Lawson’s Open Horseman’s licence from 15 January 2019 to 31 July 2020 and fined him $8,000. We called for the parties to file submissions as to costs.

[2] Mr Symon, for the Informant, has filed a memorandum dated 14 March 2019. He seeks an order for costs in the RIU’s favour in the amount of $5,000. Mr Rob Lawson, advocate, filed a memorandum dated 19 March 2019 submitting that an award of $400 was appropriate to cover the cost of transcription.

[3] This Committee is empowered to determine the issue of costs pursuant to the 5th Schedule to the Rules of Harness Racing, which came into effect on 27 August 2015.

[4] Clause 29 of the 5th Schedule provides that the Committee may order any person “as it thinks fit” to pay all or any of the reasonable costs and expenses of any party, the relevant Code, the RIU, the Judicial Control Authority and the Judicial Committee.

[5] Mr Symon submits that the Informant has incurred the cost of investigating and prosecuting Mr Lawson’s breach of the Rules. He submits that the $5,000 costs award sought represents approximately 60 percent of the costs of counsel incurred by the Informant.

[6] Mr Lawson Snr submits that given Mr Lawson’s immediate admission and acceptance of the charges, which led to a penalty hearing only, that he should not – in effect – have to pay for the Informant’s counsel. He points to the financial consequences of the penalty imposed, which he describes as harsh. He otherwise submits that it is the function of the RIU to prosecute cases and its costs are funded by gaming machines in TABs.

[7] There is no scale applicable in cases such as these. The Committee’s discretion is broad. It may order costs “as it thinks fit”. The Informant has succeeded in its case. It is entitled to costs.

[8] The penalty hearing was not straightforward. Written submissions were presented. There was a dispute over the summary of facts (although in the result, minor, and largely resolved before the hearing commenced). The central issue though was that of penalty with the parties at polar opposites as to the appropriate outcome – the RIU seeking disqualification and Mr Lawson a fine.

[9] The Committee determines that it was entirely appropriate for the RIU to engage counsel. The penalty hearing required the careful and professional presentation of submissions, which had extensive reference to caselaw, including overseas caselaw. Mr Lawson engaged the services of his father, himself an experienced and professional advocate. He was lucky to secure able representation without cost.

[10] Mr Lawson was the central focus of the RIU’s enquiry, which has successfully identified his breaches, prosecuted them and secured – as Mr Lawson snr submits – the longest suspension penalty in the history of New Zealand harness racing.

[11] Mr Lawson profited from his breaches. Whilst his suspension and the fine imposed will hurt him financially that does not prohibit this Committee from further imposing an award of costs. It is a matter, however, that has tempered our award.

[12] For these reasons, we determine that an award of $3,500 costs in the Informant’s favour is appropriate. Mr Lawson is ordered to pay $3,500 costs to the Informant.

[13] There is also an order that Mr Lawson pay costs of the JCA in the sum of $1,000.

Dated at Dunedin this 17th day of April 2019.

Geoff Hall, Chairman

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