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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v T Johnson - Decision dated 9 January 2019 - Chair, Mr T Utikere

Created on 14 January 2019

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE
JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY
UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT
Informant

AND T JOHNSON
Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr T Utikere (Chairman) - Mr T Castles (Member)
Parties: Mr S Irving (for the RIU), Mr T Johnson (as the Respondent)
Hearing: 7 January 2019 at Otaki Racecourse
Date of Oral Decision: 7 January 2019
Date of Written Decision: 9 January 2019
______________________________________________________________________________________________
WRITTEN DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 9 JANUARY 2019
______________________________________________________________________________________________

FACTS

[1] The Respondent has been charged with a breach of Rule 707(1)(a) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.

[2] The relevant Rules state as follows:

707(1) Subject to sub-Rule (2) below:
(a) A Rider must not bet or have any interest in a bet, or facilitate a bet, on any Race, or any contingency which includes or relates to any Race, that is governed by these Rules. For the purpose of this Rule, the reference to bet includes Laying any horse;

707(4) For the purpose of Rule 801(t), any breach of this Rule 707 is deemed to be a Serious Racing Offence.

801(1) A person commits a Serious Racing offence within the meaning of these rules who:
(t) Commits a breach of any Rule which is or maybe deemed to be a Serious Racing Offence by these Rules.”

[3] The specific Information alleged:

Information No A7171
THAT Between 11 August and 08 December 2018 while a Licensed Class A Rider, did place 20 bets on New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing governed race meetings via his NZ TAB account. An alleged breach of Rules 707(1)(a) and 801(1)(t) of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Inc Rules of Racing.”

[4] The relevant Penalty provisions are contained in Rule 803(1) which state:

Rule 803(1): “A person who, or body or other entity which, commits or is deemed to have committed a breach of these Rules or any of them for which a penalty is not provided elsewhere in these Rules shall be liable to:
(a) be disqualified for a period not exceeding 12 months; and/or
(b) be suspended from holding or obtaining a Licence for a period not exceeding 12 months. If a Licence is renewed during a term of suspension, then the suspension shall continue to apply to the renewed Licence; and/or
(c) a fine not exceeding $20,000.”

PRELIMINARY MATTERS

[5] The Committee was in receipt of the Notice of Appointment, the Charge Rules and Penalty Provisions and an Authority to Charge Letter from the General Manager (Stewards) of the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU), Mr N McIntyre.

[6] With the agreement of all parties, this matter was set down for hearing prior to racing at Otaki Racecourse on 7 January 2019. The hearing was delayed due to Mr Johnson’s late arrival to the racecourse. At the commencement of the hearing, Mr Johnson apologised for his lateness, with an explanation that was accepted by the Committee. He also confirmed that he admitted the breach, as identified on the signed Information.

SUMMARY OF FACTS

[7] The RIU submitted the following Summary of Facts:

1. The respondent Timothy Daniel Johnson is a Licenced Class ‘A’ Jockey under the Rules of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing.
2. He is 21 years old and finished his apprenticeship in October 2018.
3. Mr Johnson opened a New Zealand TAB account in May 2017.
4. On 08 December 2018 the RIU Betting Analyst scrutinised Race 9 at the Wellington RC meeting at Trentham and identified a $150 win bet placed via Mr Johnson’s TAB account.
5. Mr Johnson was not riding in the race but had ridden earlier at the meeting and had left the racecourse when the bet was placed.
6. Further analysis of Mr Johnson’s TAB account identified a further 19 bets placed electronically over 10 race meetings between August and November 2018.
7. No bets were placed on races which he was riding and three were placed on races at which he was riding at the same meeting but were not placed when Mr Johnson was on course.
8. When interviewed on 13 December Mr Johnson admitted to placing the bets via his mobile phone and stated that he knew that he was not allowed to bet under the Rules.
9. In explanation he stated it was a stupid thing to do.

10. The bets placed totalled $525 and returned $938.
11. Mr Johnson has no previous betting or serious racing offence charges under the Rules.

[8] Mr Irving also tabled a Matrix that identified the details for each of the bets that were placed by Mr Johnson. The Matrix also identified if Mr Johnson had ridden at the same meeting that a horse subject to a bet had been racing at, and whether he had previously ridden the horse upon which he had placed the bet.

[9] Mr Irving also commented that Mr Johnson did not realise that the RIU checked up on jockey’s TAB accounts, and that if he knew this would happen then he would not have placed the bets. The RIU were also satisfied that Mr Johnson did not have a gambling problem.

[10] The informant had made contact with the TAB to see whether it was possible to place restrictions on TAB accounts so that riders like Mr Johnson were unable to place bets on domestic thoroughbred races. The response from the TAB was that currently that was not possible.

[11] Mr Johnson confirmed that the Summary and the Matrix of bets was accurate. In response to a question from the Committee around the bets not being one-off in nature, Mr Johnson said that he continued to bet as he was coming out of his apprenticeship and he encountered some financial difficulties at that time. He was unaware that paperwork had to be completed to access the lump sum payable upon the completion of his apprenticeship, which meant there had been delays in being able to obtain those funds.

DECISION

[12] As the charge was admitted, the Committee deemed the charge proved.

INFORMANT’S PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

[13] The RIU submitted the following Penalty Submissions:

1. The respondent Timothy Daniel Johnson is a Class ‘A’ Jockey. He is 21 years old and completed his apprenticeship on 24 October 2018.
2. He has admitted one ‘representative charge’ in breach of Rule 707(1)(a), placing 20 bets on the NZ TAB between August and December 2018.
3. None of these bets were placed on races in which he was riding.
4. Three of the bets were placed on race meetings that he was riding at.
5. When interviewed Mr Johnson stated that he was aware of the Rule that he could not bet on thoroughbred racing in New Zealand.
6. It is submitted that a $1500 fine should be imposed.
7. In support of penalty I refer to two previous relevant cases under NZTR Rules: RIU v H (26.07.2016) – 28yo Licensed Jockey - eight bets placed over a week when not riding. Previously warned for betting. $850 fine imposed. RIU v T (12.05.2016) – 29yo Licensed Apprentice Jockey - 15 bets placed over five months on the ‘Jockey Challenge’ option, including some bets on himself to win. $2000 fine imposed.
8. Even given that a ‘representative charge’ was preferred over 20 individual charges, some weighting in penalty must be given to the number of bets placed.
9. During this period Mr Johnson was also betting on the NZ harness and greyhound codes and on thoroughbred racing in Australia.
10. Mr Johnson states that he does not have a gambling problem and bets to try and make some extra cash.

COSTS
11. The RIU are seeking no costs.

MITIGATING FACTORS
12. It is acknowledged that Mr Johnson has admitted the breach at the first opportunity and has been fully cooperative throughout the process.
13. It is submitted that there was no sinister intentions in relation to the bets placed by Mr Johnson in that they did not influence how others rode in the relevant races.
14. The majority of bets were placed while Mr Johnson was not riding at the meeting and not on any horses he was riding in regular track-work.
15. The three bets he did place on races in which he attended the meetings were done so when he was ‘off course’ on his mobile device.
16. Mr Johnson has no previous Serious Racing Offence charges.

AGGRAVATING FACTORS
17. Mr Johnson stated that he was aware of the Rules and yet still continued to bet on NZTR races.
18. He has previously ridden three of the horses he bet on in races.
19. Mr Johnson profited from the bets he made to the value of $413.

CONCLUSION
20. Given the mitigating and aggravating factors as listed and the overall circumstances considered in this case, I believe that a penalty of a $1500 fine should be imposed.

[14] Mr Irving confirmed that while the respondent had also placed bets on the Harness and Greyhound codes, along with racing in Australia, nothing untoward was suggested. He also identified that some of the bets were placed while Mr Johnson had been suspended, and his $1,500 figure was based on a halfway point between the two cases he had canvassed in his submissions.

[15] In response to questioning from the Committee, the RIU confirmed that in RIU v T, the rider had bet on himself in a Jockey’s Challenge, which was aggravating as the pressure would have been on that rider to do whatever it takes, whilst riding, to win. In the current case, the fact that Mr Johnson had profited was an aggravating factor which had been factored into the RIU’s submission on the appropriate level of fine. If the respondent had received a lower, or no profit, then the RIU would have pitched a lower level of fine; conversely, if a higher profit had been received then a higher quantum of fine would have been sought.

[16] The RIU v T decision identifies that Mr Irving had attended the Central Districts Apprentice School to advise all riders of the rule change and restrictions on placing bets by riders. He confirmed for the Committee that Mr Johnson was also present at the session he attended.

[17] Mr Johnson informed the Committee that he had recently come out of a four year apprenticeship and had in fact extended his apprenticeship term for an additional five months. He stated that he thought the $1,500 fine being sought by the RIU was a fair penalty.

[18] He agreed that he did not have a gambling problem, and that most of the bets were of a modest nature. The reason for placing the bets was to alleviate some of the financial difficulty he was facing at the time. He submitted that he had only placed bets via his TAB account, and would be happy to close his account if required. He did not have any current financial issues of concern.

[19] Mr Johnson had no further submissions to make.

REASONS FOR PENALTY

[20] Mr Johnson faces a Representative charge for placing a total of 20 bets on New Zealand thoroughbred races. There has not been a breach of Rule 707(1)(a) for quite some time, as it is well known within the industry by licence holders that there are absolute restrictions placed upon riders when it concerns the placement of code-specific domestic bets. This is because a breach of this rule goes to the heart of integrity considerations for industry participants and the betting public. This is why a breach of Rule 707(1)(a) is considered as a Serious Racing Offence.

[21] We have had regard to the two code-specific cases that have been put before us. The circumstances identified in RIU v Harris are quite different to this matter, and there are some aspects of RIU v Teeluck that provide some parallels with Mr Johnson; largely around the need for penalties in such cases to act as a deterrent.

[22] The JCA Penalty Guide identifies the starting point as “Fact Dependent”; this is because penalty considerations turn on the particular circumstances of each case. In arriving at a suitable starting point, the Committee identifies that there are a number of aggravating features.

[23] Mr Johnson knew that it was wrong to bet on domestic thoroughbred races, yet he continued to do so in a sustained manner. He bets were not just one-off in nature; they were 20 bets over a period of nearly four months. Upon the Committee’s analysis and review of the Matrix of bets provided by Mr Irving, we can establish that the bets seemed to be spread across a variety of venues, jockeys, trainers and horses. We are also able to note that all bets are only placed on horses in a particular race once; that is, there are no follow-up bets on the same horse at a later date.

[24] While Mr Johnson may have faced some financial difficulties whilst waiting for his apprenticeship monies to clear, he has profited $413 as a result of his offending. Each time that he willingly placed a bet, he clearly knew it was wrong to do so. After considering these aggravating factors, we determine that a starting point of a $2,500 fine is appropriate.

[25] In mitigation we must consider Mr Johnson’s early admission of the breach and his co-operation throughout the investigation process. The respondent also has no previous Serious Racing Offences, which must go in his favour.

[26] When we apply mitigation, we arrive at a fine of $1,750; which we consider as appropriate in these circumstances. Mr Johnson has also identified that he would close his TAB account if required to do so. This Committee cannot make such an order, but he is obviously keen to not repeat such a breach again. Mr Johnson is also aware, and accepts, that a further breach of this rule may result in a more severe sanction, such as disqualification.

PENALTY

[27] Mr Johnson is fined $1,750.

COSTS

[28] The RIU do not seek any costs. As this matter was heard on a raceday, there will be no order for costs in favour of the JCA.


Signed at Palmerston North this 9th day of January 2019.

________________
Mr Tangi Utikere
Chairman


 

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