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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v W T Hodgson - Written Decision dated 28 November 2017 - Chair, Mr T Utikere

Created on 01 December 2017

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE

JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the Rules of Greyhound Racing

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Informant

AND WT HODGSON

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr T Utikere (Chairman)

Mr T Castles (Member)

Parties: Mr S Irving (for the RIU)

Mr W Hodgson (as the Respondent)

Registrar: Mr N Goodwin

Date of Hearing: 23 November 2017

Date of Written Decision: 28 November 2017

WRITTEN DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

FACTS

[1] Mr Hodgson is a Licensed Greyhound Trainer who has been charged with an alleged breach of Rule 62.1(o) of the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing.

[2] Information A3383 specifically alleges that on 20 September 2017: “Mr Hodgson used offensive language towards Ms Wendy Kite in the kennels area at the Wanganui Greyhound Track”.

[3] Rule 62.1 states: “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;”.

Procedural Matters
[4] This matter was set down for a hearing at Awapuni Racecourse on 23 November, and a total of five Minutes have been issued prior to the hearing, largely relating to matters of process. Those Minutes also reflect the receipt of the Notice of Appointment of this Judicial Committee and the Letter Authorising the charge from the General Manager of the RIU. They also detail a number of the directions that have been made by the Committee, including Mr Hodgson’s confirmation of a Not Guilty plea to the charge.

[5] On the 22 November, a further email from the Respondent was forwarded to the Judicial Committee, seeking an adjournment of the hearing date, and a further request to have the charge vacated. In response the Judicial Committee Chairman issued the following response:

“The committee is in receipt of two further emails from the Respondent, dated 13 and 21 November. The most recent email seeks an adjournment of the Hearing set down for tomorrow at 11.00am.

The most recent Minute issued by this Committee dated 11 November 2017, while pre-dating the most recent emails from the Respondent, still addressed the issues that he has raised. That is, any outstanding matters relating to process will be dealt with at the hearing.

It remains the responsibility of the Prosecuting Agency to prove the charge against Mr Hodgson, and the JCA has not firmed any view on whether this has been achieved as it has not had a robust and fair analysis of any evidence, by either party, placed before it.

While the Respondent may perceive the directions issued by this Committee as "indulgences granted by the JCA towards the prosecuting authority", we reject such an assertion, and consider that the hearing of this matter has been progressed in a fair, equitable and just matter; and in accordance with the principles of Natural Justice and due process.

Accordingly, the Hearing will proceed tomorrow at 11.00am."

THE HEARING
[6] At the commencement of the hearing, Mr Ashoka Pandey was present and advised that he was there to assist Mr Hodgson. The Committee informed Mr Hodgson that we had no issue with him providing assistance, but directed parties to previous Minutes that contained the following:

“Mr Hodgson is also directed to advise the JCA by 4.00pm on Wednesday 1 November as to whether he is being self-represented, instructing legal counsel or whether Mr Ashoka Pandey is to be his lay advocate on this matter; so that clarity is provided and communication can occur via a single point of contact.” (At para [9] of Minute No.3 of the Judicial Committee Dated 27 October 2017 - see attached).

“The committee also notes that Mr Hodgson has advised us that he will be self-represented but reserves his right to engage counsel or support from a lay advocate if he wishes. If he takes that course of action, he is to advise the JCA as soon as possible.” (At para [5] of Minute No.4 of the Judicial Committee Dated 1 November 2017 - see attached).

[7] The Respondent then provided the Committee with a further Memorandum seeking to address the response issued by the Chairman on 22 November. The Memorandum sought an adjournment, specifically stating that: “Had I known that this Hearing was to proceed without the expected consideration by your Judicial Committee of my said submission, it is highly likely that I would be represented here today by qualified legal counsel, which, as you can see, is not the case.” The remainder of the Memorandum sought an adjournment for matters of “due process”.

[8] The Committee rejected the further request, specifically referring to the previous Minutes and responses issued by the Committee, which addressed all of the concerns that Mr Hodgson had raised. As a result of this ruling, Mr Pandey voiced his displeasure and elected to leave the hearing.

The Informant’s Case
[9] For the RIU, Mr Irving presented the alleged Summary of Facts as follows:

The Respondent William Thomas Hodgson is a licenced trainer under the Rules of the New Zealand Greyhound Association. He is 75 years old and is the current President of the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club.

The Respondent was in attendance at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club’s meeting at Hatrick Raceway on the 20th September 2017. There was an incident at the lure following the running of Race 5 involving the Respondent’s dog ‘Charlie Bo Bo’, his handler Mr Dunkerton and the handler of another dog, Ms Wendy Kite.

Prior to Race 7 the Respondent and Ms Kite were in the kennel block. The Respondent walked past Ms Kite and mumbled something to her. Ms Kite kennelled her dog then approached the Respondent and asked him what he had said.

The two spoke briefly about the incident at the lure and as Ms Kite started to explain the situation the Respondent turned his back on her and loudly told her to “piss off.” She replied, “that’s a lovely way for the President of the club to talk to one of his members.”

The Respondent turned and faced Ms Kite and threw his arms in the air and again aggressively told her to “piss off.” Ms Kite felt intimidated and upset by his actions and left the kennel block. She returned to her van crying and a short time later reported the incident to the Stewards.

The Respondent was interviewed on the 25th September at Manawatu Raceway. He admitted to speaking with Ms Kite in the kennel block and to telling her once to “piss off”. When informed that his comments and aggressive manner had visibly upset Ms Kite, the Respondent stated that “she always cries“.

Mr Hodgson has been involved in the Greyhound Industry for many years. He has one previous charge for a behavioural offence in March 2015 and was issued with a written warning for behaviour and language toward Steward Gavin Whiterod on the 15th April 2016.

[10] In response to a question from the Committee, Mr Irving confirmed that the allegation from the RIU was that Mr Hodgson had misconducted himself on 20 September. He identified that the definition of ‘Misconduct’ was not contained in the Greyhound Rules of Racing. He stated that the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “unacceptable or improper behaviour, especially by an employee or professional person”.

[11] The RIU’s case was that the Respondent’s actions and words constituted unacceptable or improper behaviour, and that his actions satisfy the unacceptable or improper test; and that it was the combination of those that the RIU were alleging had occurred.

Wendy KITE - Witness
[12] Ms Kite provided the following Evidential Statement:

I am an Owner / Trainer Licence holder under the Rules of Greyhound Racing New Zealand. I am 45 years old and have been involved in the greyhound industry as a licence holder for about 15 years. I normally train 3-4 dogs and I have also been assisting Brendon Cole with his dogs on racedays.

On Wednesday 20th September 2017 I attended the Wanganui GRC meeting at Hatrick raceway. Sometime around 2.00pm I was getting a dog vet checked for kennelling on the ramp in the kennelling block. Bill Hodgson walked past me mumbling something while looking directly at me.

I couldn’t hear anything that he said but by the way he looked at me I could tell that he was annoyed with me and he was directing his words to me. I had heard that he was not happy with me about an earlier race when I had tried to help his handler catch his dog.

I kennelled my dog then approached him while he was waiting to get his dog out of the kennel block. I asked him what he had said as I hadn’t quite heard him. He replied, “you know what you did girl, you’ve got a problem”. I replied, “what’s my problem then Bill?” He muttered something about being rough with his dog around at the catching area.

I then started to explain the situation but before I could get a word out he turned his back on me and told me to “piss off.” He said it quite loud and I was right next to him. I was a bit shocked with his response and said to him “that’s a lovely way for the President of the club to talk to one of his members.” He turned back toward me and he threw his hands in the air and then aggressively told me to again to “piss off”.

He was facing me at this time and was about a metre from me. He told me to “piss off” again. I felt intimidated and upset by his actions. I walked out of the kennel block and back to Brendon’s trailer where I was based. I was crying and told Brendon what had happened.

Bill is an elder at the racing club and someone I have always had respect for. I knew that Bev Duganzich was in the kennel block at the time but I don’t know who else was there. I was that shocked about what had just happened that I wasn’t aware of who else was around. A short time later I went upstairs and reported what had happened to Steward Mike Austin.

[13] In response to questions from Mr Irving, Ms Kite confirmed that Mr Hodgson told her to “piss off” three times and that he had also thrown his hands in the air at the same time, whilst he was located approximately one metre away. She said she felt intimidated by his words, but not intimidated by his physical actions. She did not believe that was the sort of language and behaviour she would expect from the President of the Club.

[14] Under cross-examination from Mr Hodgson she confirmed that she had approached him and responded that “I was only trying to help Lionel ” (Lionel is Mr Hodgson's dog handler on racedays). She confirmed that he had told her that he did not wish to discuss the matter concerning his dog CHARLIE BO BO with her, and told her to go away two times. It was also on the third time that he had told her to “piss off”. She also stated that Mr Cole did not ask her to go to the stipendiary stewards to lay a complaint.

[15] In response to questions from the Committee, Ms Kite confirmed that if Mr Hodgson was not the President, she would not have taken exception to the language he used, citing it as inappropriate for someone in that leadership role. She agreed that similar words to “piss off” were used when kennelling dogs, and that Mr Hodgson had said “piss off” three times on the one occasion. She also believed that the stipendiary stewards had heard she was upset and Mr Austin had come to see her and asked her what had happened as a result.

[16] On re-examination, she agreed that it was possible that Beverley Duganzich was in the kennelling block and may have seen or heard what had happened, and that the kennelling block had a lot of noise around, so Mr Hodgson would have had to say “piss off” quite loudly for it to be heard. She did not believe he had said it in a dismissive or joking way. While it was said loudly, she did not believe he had screamed at her when he said it.

Beverley DUGANZICH- Witness
[17] Ms Duganzich provided the following Evidential Statement:

I am a licence holder under the Rules of Greyhound Racing New Zealand and I assist my son Earl with training greyhounds. I am a board member of the Wanganui GRC (Ms Duganzich advised the Committee that she had recently (days prior to the Hearing) retired as a Board Member) and have been ‘on and off’ for eight years and have been involved in the greyhound industry for 30 plus years.

At about 1.40pm on the 20th of September I was in the kennel block at Wanganui waiting to get our dog ‘Bev’s New Point’ out for race 7. Someone else was getting a dog out, I can’t recall who that was. Bill Hodgson was next and I think Wendy Kite was next in line.

I saw Wendy talking to Bill. She was leaning in toward him talking to him as if she was not wanting anyone else to hear. They were very close to each other. I did not hear what she said but it was obvious Bill did not want to listen. I could tell from his body language that his whole attitude was dismissive of her. If Wendy wasn’t a woman I think he would have punched her.

He then threw his arms up in the air and he said “ah piss off”. He said it is in a very loud and aggressive manner. Bill went to get his dog out and Wendy left to go outside. His conduct was awful, she was just trying to talk to him.

When I went outside to rug the dog, Bill approached me and said that Wendy had thrown his dog against the fence and also that his dog only jumps on dogs that have been given hormones or steroids and that never happens at home because he doesn’t give his dogs those sorts of things. He raved on to me about it. I didn’t say anything because when he’s like that its better just not to say anything. I am a Board Member and I have a responsibility to protect my members from unacceptable behaviour.

[18] In response to questions from Mr Irving, she said it was clear that Ms Kite was very upset and that Mr Hodgson’s behaviour was “more agro” and intimidating, than threatening. She confirmed her belief that Mr Hodgson was very upset and angry when he spoke with her about the dog incident. She did not believe that the President should be able to talk in the way that she observed. She had heard him say “piss off” once in the kennel block, which was noisy. She placed the distance between herself and Mr Hodgson on the day at approximately three to four metres.

[19] In response to questions from the Respondent, Ms Duganzich confirmed that she did not know why Ms Kite had approached him first. She said she could tell from the body language that he was “very agro” on that day. She then demonstrated the alleged body language to the hearing, which then required judicial intervention and direction to the witness to calm and contain her.

[20] In response to the Committee’s questions she agreed that it would have been what Mr Hodgson had said to Ms Kite that would have led to his reaction, and that there was often banter amongst personnel at greyhound meetings. When she was in the Dog Catching Area, someone referred to an incident between Ms Kite and Mr Hodgson, and while she could not recall who had mentioned it, she had told Mr Austin that she would be a witness.

[21] Under re-examination, she agreed that a lot of people would have known about the alleged incident and that within 10 minutes of the incident, people would have been talking all about it. She agreed that information regarding Ms Kite could have come from anyone who had seen her upset and that the body language of Ms Kite was indicative of a professional conversation she was attempting to have with Mr Hodgson, rather than being loud.

Michael AUSTIN - Witness
[22] Stipendiary Steward Mr Austin provided the following Evidential Statement:

I have been a Stipendiary Steward for over 11 years and have been stewarding at the greyhounds for all of that time. I have known Bill Hodgson and Wendy Kite since I became a Steward.

At the Wanganui Greyhound meeting on Wednesday 20 September 2017 I was Stewarding and the Chairman that day was Gavin Whiterod. Sometime after Race 5 I was advised by a handler that Wendy Kite was crying having been abused by Bill Hodgson. A few minutes later I saw Wendy outside the kennel block and asked her if she was okay. She told me that Bill had been abusive to her and told her to “just piss off” over an incident at the lure which I was already aware of.

On Monday 25 September I was present when Bill Hodgson was interviewed by Gavin Whiterod at the Palmerston North Greyhound meeting. Also present as a support person for Bill Hodgson was Mrs Lana Pearce. Mr Whiterod recorded the interview on his Dictaphone and I am now aware that the recording cannot be retrieved. From my recollection Mr Hodgson was asked if he could recall an incident in the kennel block at the Wanganui Greyhounds the previous week regarding his discussion with Trainer Ms Wendy Kite.

Mr Hodgson said he did and that he had told Ms Kite to piss off and that there was nothing in it. Mr Hodgson was asked if he used any other language towards Ms Kite. He replied no and he also said that Wendy Kite always cries. Mr Hodgson was asked what the cause of the incident was. He said that she had been interfering in the catching of one of his greyhounds at the lure in an earlier race. The interview then ended and Mr Hodgson and Mrs Pearce left the room.

[23] Under cross-examination, Mr Austin recalled going back to the kennel block, where a handler came up to him stating that Ms Kite was crying and had been abused by Mr Hodgson. He then saw Ms Kite who was visibly upset and crying. She initially did not want to say what was wrong, but then had told him that she had been abused by Mr Hodgson in the kennel block. He confirmed that he spoke with Ms Kite sometime after Race 5. He also could not recall the response given regarding the incident at the lure with CHARLIE BO BO, when the interview with Mr Whiterod took place on 25 September.

[24] In response to questions from the Committee, he identified that the handler who had advised him of the incident with Mr Hodgson had been Brendon Cole and that the relationship between the Respondent and that trainer could be best described as “strained”. He confirmed that when licence holders were upset, the stipendiary stewards tried to attend to it if they could. He conceded that use of the words “piss off” was common around racetracks, but that it depended upon the circumstance(s) in which it was used as to whether it could be deemed inappropriate. Mr Austin also believed that if Mr Cole had not brought the incident to his attention, he would have walked into Ms Kite at that time anyway.

[25] Under re-examination, he confirmed that Ms Kite was visibly upset and crying and that Mr Hodgson was also provided with a memory stick with post-race footage from Race 5 at the Respondent’s request.

Gavin WHITEROD - Witness
[26] The Chief Stipendiary Steward for Greyhounds, Mr Whiterod provided the following Evidential Statement:

I have been a Steward for 30 years, initially in Thoroughbred Racing and a Greyhound Steward for the last 17 years. I have known Bill Hodgson and Wendy Kite for many years. I was the Chairman of Stewards at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club’s meeting at Hatrick Raceway on the 20th September 2017.

Sometime after race 5, Mr L Dunkerton, a handler who was catching the dog ‘CHARLIE BO BO’ for Mr Hodgson, came to see me in the Stewards room and complained that other handlers had hampered his attempts at catching the dog by getting in his way. Sometime later I was advised that there had been a verbal altercation at the kennels and Mr Hodgson had used offensive language towards Ms Wendy Kite who had become very upset at the language and manner in which Mr Hodgson had spoken to her. Stipendiary Steward Mike Austin spoke with Ms Kite and then advised her to draft a statement of what had occurred.

I interviewed Mr Hodgson on 25.09.2017 at the Palmerston North GRC meeting, in the presence of Mike Austin and Witness Lana Pearce. I recorded the interview on my Dictaphone. When I came to retrieve the recording several days after the interview I had problems locating the recording and took it into a tech expert in Palmerston North who could not get it to work. As a result the Dictaphone now does not function and the recording has been lost.

I recall in the interview that Mr Hodgson confirmed that he did speak with Ms Kite on the day in question at Wanganui but that there was nothing in it. He admitted that he had used the expression “PISS OFF” when talking to Ms Kite. When I stated that in my view, she must have been upset by his comments as she had been in tears following their discussion, he stated that “she always cries”.

Mr Hodgson has been involved in the Greyhound Industry for many years and is presently the president of the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club. I expect a proper level of behaviour from all licensed persons especially from the President of a Greyhound Racing Club.

[27] Mr Whiterod then informed the hearing that it was Mr Austin who had advised him that there had been a verbal altercation at the kennels. In the interview that took place on 25 September, Mr Hodgson had given him the impression that there was nothing in the allegation as far as he was concerned. Following the interview, he considered the various options of how to progress the matter against Mr Hodgson.

[28] Mr Whiterod elected not to proceed with Warning Mr Hodgson, due to a previous Warning being issued regarding a verbal altercation with Mr Whiterod at a Greyhound Meeting in 2016. The Warning was tabled during the hearing.

[29] Regarding the Written Warning (dated 18 May 2016), Mr Irving confirmed to the Committee that the Written Warning was more formal in nature and was designed for Non-Raceday matters.

[30] Under cross-examination, Mr Whiterod confirmed that after reviewing the films of Race 5, he maintained the view that nothing untoward had occurred post-race in relation to CHARLIE BO BO.

[31] In response to Committee questioning, he stated that he did not recall Ms Kite manhandling any dog at the lure, but accepted that the allegation that something had gone on at the lure could have been the catalyst that led to the alleged incident. Mr Whiterod identified that if Mr Hodgson had a view that his dog had been thrown against a fence post-race, then he should have approached him on the day to investigate further. Mr Whiterod also stated that he had initially been advised by Mr Austin, after speaking with Ms Kite, that the language Mr Hodgson was alleged to have used was more severe in nature.

The Respondent’s Case
[32] Mr Hodgson gave evidence at the hearing. He confirmed that he trained a dog called CHARLIE BO BO, and for the last 20 months it had a habit of mounting dogs at the lure.

[33] He believed that the charge was motivated by another licence holder who had taken issue with him, and a particular allegation that Mr Hodgson had circulated information about that licence holder. (The Committee was made aware of the licence holder and the nature of the actions that Mr Hodgson is alleged to have undertaken, however for the purposes of this Written Decision, the Committee has opted to suppress the specific details).

[34] When Ms Kite approached him, she had repeated that she was trying to help Lionel: to which Mr Hodgson had said he did not want to discuss it further with her. He identified that there were four other people alongside himself in the kennel box at the time: the vet, Ms Kite, Ms Duganzich and a Kennel Steward who was positioned within two metres of where Mr Hodgson and Ms Kite were. He identified that if he was so aggressive and loud, then the Kennelling Steward would have heard him.

[35] Mr Hodgson had asked Ms Kite three times to go away as he did not want to discuss the CHARLIE BO BO issue further. He stated that when she approached him, he had asked her to leave, but she kept repeating that she was only there to try and help Lionel. He again told her to go away. After her persistence on the third occasion, he had told her to “piss off”.

[36] Under cross-examination, the Respondent identified that he was going to go and see Mr Whiterod and that he did not want to discuss it with Ms Kite, and that he was also busy with his dogs at the time. He also confirmed that he was not aware at the time that Lionel (his handler) had been to see Mr Whiterod. He said that initially he did not feel angry, but that Ms Kite simply would not go away when he told her he did not want to discuss the matter with her.

[37] He believed that Ms Duganzich had gone “overboard” with her evidence and should be treated as a hostile witness. He maintained that he had only told Ms Kite to “piss off” on one occasion.

[38] Mr Hodgson agreed that as the President of the Club, he had more of a duty to set an example for behaviour, but that he was speaking to Ms Kite as a trainer, not as the President. The alleged mistreatment of his dog had upset him, and he was frustrated that she would not listen and would not leave him alone.

[39] In response to a question from Mr Castles as to why he waited five days to discuss the issue with Mr Whiterod if he was so concerned about the welfare of his dog, Mr Hodgson said that he was quite busy and that other things got in the way.

The Informant’s Closing Submissions
[40] The RIU believed that Mr Hodgson’s words and actions constituted misconduct, and that his conduct was unacceptable and improper. They identified that the use of the word “piss off” on its own is not abusive or threatening. However, when said three times in a short space of time, along with the actions that Mr Hodgson is alleged to have taken, in their view; was intimidatory, aggressive and could constitute bullying.

[41] The RIU’s position was that as President, there was an expectation that Mr Hodgson’s behaviour as a professional would be of a higher standard to that of members of the Club and fellow trainers. Mr Hodgson was a senior member of the Club, whereas Ms Kite was a junior member.

[42] It was submitted that these factors in context were clearly unacceptable and improper, and therefore constituted misconduct.

[43] Mr Irving acknowledged that Ms Kite could have walked away from Mr Hodgson when he asked her to on the first occasion, and that a more experienced person may have. However, she wanted to discuss it and thought that time and place was best, and did not expect to get the reaction that she did from him.

[44] He also concluded by acknowledging that while Ms Kite was not necessarily a novice within the industry, her demeanour indicated that she was timid, shy and emotional. He accepted that there had been a small retraction from her initial understanding of the words allegedly used, and had watered down some of the language used, but that this was in her nature.

The Respondent’s Closing Submissions
[45] Mr Hodgson indicated that he had mentioned everything he wished to in his evidence, but that he had known Ms Kite for a number of years and that she was not shy, nor was she timid.

[46] He accepted that the way in which he spoke to her may have upset her; but not to the extent that had been portrayed in the hearing.

REASONS FOR DECISION
[47] The Committee considered all of the evidence and submissions that have been placed before it.

[48] The Respondent William Thomas Hodgson is a 75 year old licenced trainer under the New Zealand Rules of Greyhound Racing. He is also the President of the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club, a position he has held for three years.

[49] A number of process matters have been raised by the Respondent in the lead up to the hearing. We have dealt with these, and while the Respondent may not be comfortable with the way in which these have been dealt with, or the particular responses given, we are satisfied that all process matters have now been resolved.

[50] Reference has been made to the Warning Letter that had been issued by the RIU to Mr Hodgson on 18 May 2016. We accept that as a matter of process the letter informed Mr Whiterod’s report to Mr Godber regarding the laying of the charge, and has no bearing on whether Mr Hodgson’s alleged actions constitute misconduct or not.

[51] It is clear that there was an issue relating to Mr Hodgson’s dog CHARLIE BO BO at the lure in Race 5 at the Wanganui Club’s meeting on 20 September. It is also clear that sometime during the day, but after the running of Race 5, an incident occurred between Mr Hodgson and Ms Kite, relating to actions associated with CHARLIE BO BO earlier in the day.

[52] Mr Hodgson accepts that he told Ms Kite to “piss off” during this interaction between the two of them. The RIU contend that the context surrounding the use of the words “piss off” is important as the use of “piss off” in isolation may not be considered unacceptable, improper or to constitute misconduct. We accept that. In fact, the RIU identified that such a phrase is commonly used around racetracks, and that it is not uncommon for more colourful phrases to also be used on racetracks.

[53] The Greyhound Rules of Racing do not provide a definition of ‘Misconduct’. Mr Irving had helpfully provided a definition, but the issue for the Committee to consider is the context in which the words “piss off” were used.

[54] The RIU agree, submitting that the manner in which he used the words were important. They painted a picture of Mr Hodgson being aggressive and intimidatory, and suggest that his actions possibly constituted bullying. They say he used the phrase three times; which is disputed by Mr Hodgson. They also identify that as President of the Club, a higher level of behaviour is expected of him towards Ms Kite who was a junior member.

[55] We note that Ms Kite has been involved in the greyhound industry for at least 15 years. She normally trains three to four dogs and assists another trainer with his dogs on raceday.

[56] When looking at the context, Mr Hodgson paints a different picture. He says that he was annoyed at what Ms Kite had done, and the way in which she wished to engage with him about it. He has remained consistent with his view that he simply did not want to discuss it with her at that particular time.

[57] The end result was that he told her to “piss off” and threw his hands up in the air out of mere frustration that she was persistent and would not leave him alone.

[58] While he accepts that as President, he has a higher duty to behave, he fundamentally was acting as the trainer; not as the President at that time. In wanting to raise issues around CHARLIE BO BO, Ms Kite wanted to discuss with him issues relating to his dog, not the activities of the Club.

[59] The Committee does question why Mr Hodgson waited until the interview with stipendiary stewards some five days later to raise welfare issues regarding CHARLIE BO BO and the lure incident. However, we must turn our focus to the specific charge he is facing. That is that he misconducted himself at the Wanganui Greyhound Meeting on 20 September.

[60] In doing so, we have reached some conclusions. Firstly, was Mr Hodgson persistent? The answer we have reached is no, he was not. In the context that has been collectively described to us, it was Ms Kite who was persistent on this occasion. She wanted to discuss her involvement in an incident, that Mr Hodgson did not want to discuss, yet she was relentless in wanting to pursue the conversation.

[61] The context also provides that it was the third form of communication with Ms Kite where the Respondent told her to “piss off”. The suggestion that frustration was the prime motivation behind his use of the word is accepted.

[62] We also note that people react differently to certain situations and comments made in the heat of the moment. In this sense, it is entirely plausible that Ms Kite’s response to being told to “piss off” would differ to others who were placed in a similar situation.

Differentiated reactions and responses to the use of some words and phrases may cause differing levels of offence, but when such words are part of common parlance on a racetrack, this must also form part of the context for the Committee’s consideration.

[63] We unequivocally accept the evidence of Messrs Austin and Whiterod, as their evidence relates to matters of process, for which we are comfortable.

[64] In relation to the evidence of Ms Kite, we find that there are some gaps around her specific recollections. She did not feel intimidated by Mr Hodgson’s physical actions, but purely by the use of the words “piss off”. When we consider that view alongside the position of the RIU, which accepted that the use of such words is commonplace, there is a level of inconsistency present. This is an important consideration when we are asked to consider the context of the alleged breach. We have accordingly placed such weight on her evidence.

[65] In relation to the evidence of Ms Duganvich, the Committee has some reluctance in placing much credence on her evidence. This is because of the obvious animosity that exists between her and the Respondent, and this was clearly borne out before the Judicial Committee during the hearing.

[66] To prove the charge, we must be confident that the words used by Mr Hodgson at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club’s meeting on 20 September, alongside the context that has been painted for us, constitutes misconduct.

[67] For the inconsistencies and reasons already identified, we are not satisfied that the context in which the words “piss off” were used, constitute misconduct.

DECISION
[68] The charge is dismissed.

COSTS
[69] The tentative position is for costs to lie where they fall. If either party wishes to contest this, they are to file written submissions on costs within three working days of the date of this Written Decision.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

______________________________________________________________________________________________
Minute No.3

[7] Mr Irving is directed to file submissions with the JCA by 4.00pm on Wednesday 1 November as to why the application from the Respondent to have the charge vacated should not be granted, alongside an indicative realistic timeline as to when the original Disclosure timeframes will be met, if the Committee dismisses the Respondent's application to have the charge formally vacated.

[8] Upon receipt of Mr Irving's submissions, the committee will then make a decision on the next steps in relation to the charge against Mr Hodgson.

[9] Mr Hodgson is also directed to advise the JCA by 4.00pm on Wednesday 1 November as to whether he is being self-represented, instructing legal counsel or whether Mr Ashoka Pandey is to be his lay advocate on this matter; so that clarity is provided and communication can occur via a single point of contact.

Signed at Palmerston North this 27th day of October 2017.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

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Minute No.4

[5] The Committee also notes that Mr Hodgson has advised us that he will be self-represented but reserves his right to engage counsel or support from a lay advocate if he wishes.  If he takes that course of action, he is to advise the JCA as soon as possible.

[6] To progress this matter we make the following directions:

1) The outstanding Disclosure materials that Mr Irving has referred to in his submissions will be made available to Mr Hodgson as soon as they become available.

2) This matter is set down as a Defended Hearing on Thursday 23 November 2017, commencing at 10.00am.  The venue will be at Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North.  Both parties are directed to have their witnesses available to attend the hearing on that date.  If Mr Hodgson elects to admit this breach, he is to advise the JCA as soon as possible, so that an order for witnesses to be excused can be made.

3) The Executive Officer of the JCA is to make the necessary arrangements for the hearing to proceed on that date.

Signed at Palmerston North this 1st day of November 2017.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

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