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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v Wanganui GRC - Decision dated 5 March 2020 - Chair, Mr T Utikere

Created on 06 March 2020

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

Informant

AND WANGANUI GREYHOUND RACING CLUB

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr T Utikere (Chairman)

Mrs N Moffatt (Member)

Parties: Mr M Austin (for the RIU)

Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club (as the Respondent)

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 5 MARCH 2020

This Non-Raceday Judicial Committee has been appointed to deal with an Information (A11015) that has been filed with the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), under the provision of Rule 66.1(a). It alleges a breach of Rules 62.1(o) by the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club in relation to Race 8 of the Meeting held at Hatrick Raceway on 21 February 2020. The Information specifically alleges that the Respondent “...was negligent in that it failed to ensure that all scratchings were passed on to the TAB by the correct time (i.e. 7.30am). This resulted in BEES AND BIRDS being left in the field for Race 8 and necessitating this runner to be a late scratching and denying a reserve runner a start”.

The Information has been signed by the Club’s Operations Manager (P Freeman) as representative of the Respondent, who has also endorsed the Information as admitting the breach. It also indicated that the Respondent did not wish to be present at the hearing of the Information. As such the Committee, by way of a Minute issued on 26 February, indicated that with the consent of both parties it intended to deal with this matter on the papers.

We directed that the RIU file an Agreed Summary of Facts, along with their Penalty Submissions. They have filed a signed Statement from Stipendiary Steward Mr Mike Austin to provide a context to the breach, along with Penalty Submissions, which the Respondent has received and responded to by way of a written submission.

THE BREACH
During the mid-morning of 21 February, whilst checking the scratchings for the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club’s Meeting on that same date, Mr Austin noticed that BEES AND BIRDS was not listed as a scratching. He had then contacted the L Cole kennels who advised him that they had scratched the dog with the Club’s scratching service at 2.13pm on the day prior. Upon receiving that confirmation, Mr Austin scratched BEES AND BIRDS with Race Day Control.

When Mr Austin arrived on track, Mr Paul Freeman, the Club’s Acting Operations Manager, approached Mr Austin and fellow steward Mr Coppins to advise of an issue with a greyhound being missed off the scratchings that were advised to the TAB service in Wellington by the Club’s Secretary. He confirmed that this was the second time during the week that this situation had happened.

Mr Freeman advised that the Club would take responsibility for the oversight and that he would admit a breach of the Rules on behalf of the Club. He also advised that the Club Secretary had resigned due to what had happened. Later in the day, Mr Austin had Mr Freeman confirm that the Secretary had not resigned from the position as Club Secretary, but from her role as being responsible for the Club’s scratchings.

DECISION

As the breach is admitted, the Committee proceeds on the basis that the charge is proved.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

The RIU

In their written submissions, the RIU identify that the current breach is the second scratching not forwarded to the Scratching Service by an employee of the Club during the period 17-21 February. The RIU view this as a second breach, which they believe should be treated more seriously, due to the suggestion that there was such a short period of time since the breach that occurred by the Club’s Secretary on 19 February.

Mr Austin submits that Mr Freeman, as the Club’s Manager, had been negligent in failing to put processes in place to address a problem that had previously been identified on 19 February, and on this occasion a reserve dog had been denied a start in the race as a result. He submitted a penalty similar to that which may be imposed for a breach of Rule 63.2(a) might be appropriate to reflect that the obligations and responsibilities that Clubs have are on par to those of licence holders.

The Respondent

Mr Freeman identified that on behalf of the Club he accepted full responsibility for the oversight. By way of mitigation, he advised that the Club had been undergoing a comprehensive review of its management practices and as part of the transition some of the roles had become more defined and potentially stressful as greater accountability was demanded. While that did not excuse the breach, he believed it demonstrated the environment within which the breach occurred and made the error a little easier to understand.

The Club had demanded a high standard of performance from its staff, however, on this occasion, in spite of efforts made, the recurrence of a missed scratching had taken place. He referred to the fact that the Club had introduced more stringent procedures to ensure there was no further instance of omission.

He confirmed that the Club was mindful of its responsibility to licence holders and the industry in general, and it would be actively monitoring its systems to ensure compliance with scratchings practices and general governance issues.

REASONS FOR PENALTY

On behalf of the Club, Mr Freeman has taken responsibility for the scratching oversight that took place for the greyhound BEES AND BIRDS at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club’s Meeting on 21 February.

The RIU have filed an Information citing a breach of Rules 62.1(o) and 66.1(a). For clarity, in the context of the current charge, Rule 66.1(a) permits the laying of the Information against the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club, and it is for an alleged breach of Rule 62.1(o) for negligence.

The RIU have sought a penalty under Rule 63.2(a). That Rule provides:

63.2 Any Club found guilty of an Offence under these Rules shall be liable to, in the sole and absolute discretion of the Board or the Stewards:

(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 of its affiliation to the Association; and/or

(c) cancellation of its affiliation to the Association; and/or

(d) formal reprimand.

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, which states:

63.1 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.

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).

It is unfortunate that this is the second breach of the scratching protocols that stem from activities at the Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club. While this is strictly the Club’s first breach, Mr Austin has asked us to take into consideration the previous breach some two days earlier.

This Committee is familiar with that breach, for which the Club Secretary was held personally liable and fined $150. It is clear that there are some less than desirable process issues that the Club needs to work through, and the Operations Manager has accepted that is the case.

Due to this lack of process, the Club may, if even by association, bear some responsibility for the earlier breach only two days prior. Having two scratchings not being communicated to the relevant authorities due to an omission by a Club or its official(s) within three days of each other is far from ideal.

In aggravation we consider the fact that the Club’s negligence has meant a reserve greyhound has been unable to make the field, when it was entitled to do so by virtue of BEES AND BIRDS being removed from the race. We consider a fine at a level that would meet the principle of deterrence as appropriate.

PENALTY
The Wanganui Greyhound Racing Club is fined $300.

Signed at Palmerston North this 5th day of March 2020.

Mr Tangi Utikere

Chairman

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