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Non Raceday Inquiry - NZGRA v K Wilson 21 September 2010 - Decision dated 29 September 2010

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Rules:

88.1.f.i and 88.1.0

 

 

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

 

HELD AT AUCKLAND

 

IN THE MATTER   of the Rules and Constitution of New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association (Incorporated)

 

BETWEEN    NEW ZEALAND GREYHOUND RACING ASSOCIATION (INCORPORATED)

 

                  Informant

 

AND          Kathryn WILSON

 

                 Defendant

 

Date of Hearing:    Tuesday 21st September 2010

 

Venue:    Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland

 

Present:   Mr G Whiterod - Stipendiary Steward (representing New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association (Inc)

               Mr M Austin – Stipendiary Steward

                  Ms K Wilson

 

Judicial Committee:   BJ Scott (Chairman)

                                AJ Dooley

 

Date of Decision:                29 September 2010

 

 

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE’S DECISION

 

 

 

1.1     Stipendiary Steward Mr G Whiterod has filed an Information against Ms Kathryn Wilson charging her with misconducting herself in using offensive language to Stewards G Whiterod and M Austin at the Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club’s Meeting at the Manawatu Raceway on the 9th of August 2010.

 

1.2     The Charge Sheet read as follows:

 

          “Ms Wilson used offensive language towards Stewards Whiterod and Austin and misconduct towards the same Stewards.”

 

1.3     Rule 88.1.f.i states as follows:

 

          “Any person (including an Official) commits an offence if he/she uses improper, insulting or offensive language in either written or spoken form towards, or in relation to a steward.”

 

1.4     Rule 88.1.0 states as follows:

 

          “Any person (including an Official) commits an offence if he/she has, in relation to a Greyhound or Greyhound racing, done a thing, or omitted to do a thing, which, in the opinion of the Stewards, is negligent, dishonest, corrupt, fraudulent or improper, or constitutes misconduct.”

 

1.5     Ms Wilson acknowledged that she understood the Rules.

 

1.6     Ms Wilson did not admit the charge.

 

1.7     Mr Whiterod did not produce written permission to lodge the charge from the General Manager of Greyhound Racing New Zealand (Inc) in accordance with Rule 92.2(a).   This charge arose from a meeting on the 9th of August 2010 and therefore the NZGRA Rules applying then required written permission pursuant to Rule 92.2(a).

 

          A Charge Notification for Non Raceday Inquiry from Mr Whiterod to the GRNZ Racing Manager was made available to the Committee but this does not satisfy the provisions of Rule 92.2(a).

 

 

Mr G Whiterod Evidence/Submissions

 

2.1     Mr Whiterod and Mr Austin were the officiating Stipendiary Stewards at the Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club’s Meeting at the Manawatu Raceway on the 9th of August 2010. 

 

2.2     Ms Wilson was the person who was representing the Trainer Mr Stephen Clark and the person at the Meeting for the time being in charge of the greyhound Snowblind which raced in Race 2 at that Meeting.

 

2.3     Following Race 2 Mr Whiterod investigated the racing performance of Snowblind and decided that he would charge that greyhound under the Rules.

 

2.4     Ms Wilson was invited to the Judicial Room to watch the film of the race and to discuss the situation with Mr Whiterod.

 

2.5     Mr Whiterod expressed to Ms Wilson his concerns about the run of Snowblind and Ms Wilson was given the opportunity to view the films.

 

2.6     Mr Whiterod said that his interpretation of Snowblind’s performance was that it failed to pursue the lure and he was going to charge Snowblind under the appropriate Rule.

 

2.7     The procedure under the NZGRA Rules for hearing a charge on raceday is that one Stipendiary Steward proceeds with the charge and the other Stipendiary Steward fills the role of Adjudicating Steward.   On this occasion Mr Austin was the Adjudicating Steward.

 

2.8     Ms Wilson said that she didn’t agree with Mr Whiterod’s interpretation of the Rule and Snowblind’s performance and wanted to defend the charge.

 

2.9     The Hearing commenced and then was stopped while arrangements were made to have Snowblind vetted.  

 

2.10    The Hearing then recommenced with Mr Whiterod of the view that Snowblind had failed to pursue the lure.

 

2.11    Ms Wilson at this stage said to Mr Whiterod and Mr Austin “you don’t know how to read a race, you’ve never trained a dog, you don’t know what you are doing and shouldn’t have a job.”

 

2.12    Mr Whiterod said that he told Ms Wilson that she should be courteous and she said “why should I be courteous when you are going to put the dog out for three months and you are signing its death warrant”.

 

2.13    Ms Wilson was given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr Whiterod and she said that his summary was basically correct but the wording that he used was not accurate.

 

          She said that this was a he said/she said situation.

 

 

Mr M Austin Evidence/Submissions

 

3.1     Mr Austin said that as he recalled it he came into the Judicial Room to watch the film of Race 2.

 

3.2     Ms Wilson was also asked to come into the room to watch the race.

 

3.3     He said that when Mr Whiterod and Ms Wilson were watching the film of the race and discussing Snowblind’s performance that he was not present.

 

3.4     Mr Whiterod informed him that Snowblind had a charge to answer of failing to pursue the lure.   Mr Austin said that he was then asked to come back into the room to be the Adjudicating Steward at the Hearing.

 

3.5     Mr Austin said that he found unacceptable the comments made by Ms Wilson at the Hearing.

 

3.6     He said that before he had made a decision that Ms Wilson said that she disagreed with Mr Whiterod’s statements and interpretation of the race.

 

3.7     He said that Ms Wilson got angry and accused the Stewards of bias and said that they don’t know their job, can’t read races and shouldn’t have a job.

 

3.8     He said that Ms Wilson became visibly upset and also said that Snowblind had not been vetted so that in fairness to her he stopped the proceedings to have Snowblind vetted.

 

3.9     Mr Austin said that the Veterinary Certificate provided for a seven days stand down but at that stage he had not made a decision.   Mr Austin said that they reviewed the race a few more times and Ms Wilson got upset and abusive.   He said that she was telling the Stipendiary Stewards that they were unfair and biased and that she started making threats to them.   He said that she said that if you stand the dog down then you have signed its death warrant.   She also said that she was going to get copies of other races and that “I am going to keep you guys up to the mark on matters with other dogs.”

 

3.10    Mr Austin said that Ms Wilson should refrain from making those comments because Mr Whiterod was not making the decision in respect to the charge, he was.

 

3.11    He said that Ms Wilson said that the dog had come back from injury and should be given the benefit of the doubt and it didn’t like the safety fence.

 

3.12    Mr Austin said that he was astounded by the way that Ms Wilson was addressing them and that she was abusive and well out of order.

 

3.13    He said that Ms Wilson reiterated her comments about signing the dog’s death warrant.

 

3.14    He said that he then asked Mr Whiterod and Ms Wilson to leave the room and he looked at the film again several times.   He said that in his view Snowblind had no problem racing and no problem with the safety fence and may have been able to win the race.   He upheld the charge of Snowblind failing to pursue the lure.

 

3.15    Ms Wilson was given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr Austin and declined to do so.

 

 

Ms K Wilson Evidence/Submissions

 

4.1     Ms Wilson confirmed that Snowblind was in Race 2 and she said that she had boxed the dog and it went a great race.   She said that she was very excited.   She said that it had not ever run in the money in New Zealand and that running second in the fastest time of the day was very exciting.

 

4.2     Ms Wilson said that she was very deflated when she was told that she had to go and see Mr Whiterod about Snowblind’s performance.

 

4.3.    She said that she went to see Mr Whiterod after Race 3 and watched the video with him and Mr Whiterod had said to her that in his opinion Snowblind had failed to pursue the lure.  

 

4.4     Ms Wilson said that she totally disagreed with Mr Whiterod’s opinion and she said that Snowblind had never been on the Manawatu track before and she thought that the safety fence might have put her off.

 

4.5     Ms Wilson said that she had another dog in another race so she then had to go.

 

4.6     She said that subsequently Snowblind had to be vet checked.

 

4.7     Ms Wilson said that she was visibly upset and she said to the Stewards “in my opinion I don’t believe that you are consistent.”   She said that in Race 3 in her opinion a dog was guilty of Marring the running of another dog but she did not think anything was done about that.

 

4.8     Ms Wilson said that she was very frustrated because she had spent a lot of time on Snowblind.   She was also very upset because she was aware that the Owner’s attitude was that if Snowblind was put out for three months then it would be the end of its career and the Owner would have the dog put down.

 

4.9     Ms Wilson said that at no time did she swear at the Stewards and as far as she was concerned she was standing up for herself and was giving her opinion.   She said that she is entitled to stand up for herself and that if standing up for herself is threatening then she would do it again.

 

4.10    Ms Wilson said that she doesn’t believe that she was physically threatening nor does she believe that she was threatening at all and she confirmed that she never swore at any stage.

 

4.11    Ms Wilson said that the system on raceday was unfair and that she believed that Mr Whiterod had already made a decision regardless of the fact that he was undertaking an investigation.

 

4.12    Ms Wilson said that there was no recording of the investigation and the Hearing even though it took some time and she said that this was a he said/she said situation.

 

4.13    Ms Wilson said that she does feel that she was representing Snowblind and that she did so properly and again she said that she never swore and she didn’t think that she was threatening, she just thought that she was standing up for herself.

 

4.14    Mr Whiterod was given the opportunity to cross examine Ms Wilson but did not do so.

 

 

G Whiterod Summary

 

5.1     Mr Whiterod said that there were a number of visits by Ms Wilson to the Judicial Room during the Hearing and that they were trying to be fair to her.   He had invited her in to view the race and he said that clearly they were both at opposite ends of the scale as far as the incident was concerned.

 

5.2     Mr Whiterod said the Hearing continued on after the race and was lengthy and Ms Wilson was given every opportunity to participate in the Hearing.   He said that her comments were offensive and uncalled for.

 

5.3     Mr Whiterod said that frustration does not give License Holders the right to be offensive.

 

5.4     Mr Whiterod said that being told that “I don’t know what I am doing and can’t read a race” is offensive.   Mr Whiterod said that those comments were totally uncalled for and he found them offensive.

 

 

Ms K Wilson Summary

 

6.1     Ms Wilson said that it is a matter of opinion as to what is offensive.

 

6.2     Ms Wilson said that Mr Whiterod had stated that he wasn’t aware of Snowblind’s Australian racing performances but that at the Hearing he made a comment that Snowblind had already had a ticket.

 

6.3     Ms Wilson said that she thought that she was fair in what she said and she is entitled to her opinion.   She was only speaking to the Stewards and was not in front of any other witnesses so was not bringing the sport of greyhound racing into disrepute.

 

6.4     Ms Wilson said that Mr Whiterod said to her at the end of the Hearing “I want you to leave this Office before I charge you”.

 

6.5     Ms Wilson said she was on the course for another 25 minutes dealing with her dogs and left and wasn’t charged.

 

6.6     She said that she was served with the Charge Sheet approximately two weeks later at Auckland.

 

6.7     Mr Whiterod said that he didn’t recall making the comment about Ms Wilson leaving the Office before he charged her.

 

 

Decision and Reasons

 

7.1      This is a charge of misconduct in using offensive language to the Stewards.

 

7.2      Notwithstanding the fact that it appears that there was a reasonably lengthy Inquiry on raceday there is no recording and no transcript.   The result of that is that we are faced with a he says/she says situation and we then have to look at the evidence and judge if an offence has been proven based on the evidence presented to us.

 

7.3      Messrs Whiterod and Austin said that the offensive language used by Ms Wilson was “you have never trained a dog, you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t have a job.”   She also said that she was going to get a DVD of other decisions to show that they were being inconsistent and unfair.  

 

7.4      Messrs Whiterod and Austin said that Ms Wilson was threatening and abusive and should be courteous and respectful towards the Stewards.

 

7.5      Ms Wilson says that she never swore at the Stewards, was neither verbally nor physically threatening and that she was frustrated and didn’t agree with the decision and that she was standing up for herself and her dog.

 

7.6      Ms Wilson complained that there was no recording of the Hearing and on that basis she said that it was a case of he said/she said.

 

7.7      Ms Wilson said that she was entitled to her opinion and she wasn’t threatening.

 

7.8      Rule 88.1.0 is one that depends upon the opinion of the Stewards.   We believe that this means we have to be satisfied, having heard all of the evidence, that no reasonable Stewards could reasonably form the opinion which the Stewards did on this occasion

 

7.9      The question that this Committee has to ask is were the words used by Ms Wilson offensive and would a reasonable person find them to be offensive.

 

          Ms Wilson said that she did not swear at the Stewards at any stage and this was not challenged by Mr Whiterod.

 

          Ms Wilson said that she was not physically threatening and this was not challenged by Mr Whiterod.

 

          Ms Wilson said that she was expressing her opinion and she acknowledged that she was frustrated and upset and that she was standing up for herself and her dog.   We take the view that within reason she is entitled to do this.

 

7.10    This Committee does not condone misconduct or offensive behaviour towards Stewards at all but we have to balance this with the rights of Trainers and their Representatives to represent themselves in respect to any Inquiry.

 

7.11    We are also required to deal with this matter on the basis of the evidence presented to us.   We are told that Ms Wilson was abusive and threatening but we have not been told how she was abusive and threatening.   Clearly Ms Wilson did not swear at the Stewards and there has been no evidence put to us that she shouted at the Stewards and made other threatening gestures.   The evidence is just not before us.  

 

          This then brings us to the words alone that were used.   Would a reasonable person think that they were offensive in the circumstances that they were used.   We doubt that any reasonable person would think that the words were offensive.

 

7.12    Another matter of concern to us is that Ms Wilson told us that Mr Whiterod said “you had better leave this Office before I charge you”.   Mr Whiterod could not recall using those words and of course we have neither a recording nor a transcript to verify this.   If those words were used then does that mean that Mr Whiterod did not believe that the words were offensive at that stage but that if Ms Wilson continued on then they might be offensive.

 

7.13    We note that the Charge Sheet referred to the meeting on the 9th of August 2010 but we cannot ascertain when Mr Whiterod issued the Charge Sheet although we believe that it would be on the 19th of August 2010 which was the date that Mr Whiterod sent a Charge Notification for a Non Raceday Inquiry to the Racing Manager for Greyhound Racing New Zealand.   The Charge Notification said that Mr Whiterod now wished to proceed with charges against Ms Wilson.   This was some 10 days after the Meeting.

 

7.14    Another matter we must address is that there is no evidence that Rule 92.2(a) has been complied with.   The charge arose out of the Meeting on the 9th of August 2010 and therefore must be dealt with under the NZGRA (Inc) Rules applying at the time.   There is no evidence before us that the provisions of Rule 92.2(a) have been complied with and accordingly that would seem to be a barrier to the charge succeeding.   We note the amended provisions now pertaining to charges but the amended Rules became effective on the 1st of September 2010.

 

7.15    The Committee has somewhat conflicting evidence before it but some of the matters raised by Ms Wilson were not challenged by Mr Whiterod.

 

7.16    Taking all matters into account, and based on the facts presented to us this Committee finds that there is insufficient evidence before us to uphold the Charge and accordingly it is dismissed.

 

 

Costs

 

8.1     Ms Wilson did not seek an Order for costs and no Order was made.   There will however be an Order that New Zealand Greyhound Racing (Inc) pays costs of $200.00 to the Judicial Control Authority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BJ Scott                             AJ Dooley

Chairman                         Committee Member

 

 

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