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Non Raceday Inquiry - NZTR v J Hall 18 August 2010 - Decision

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NZTR v JOHN HALL

 

NON RACEDAY INQUIRY

HELD AT HASTINGS RACECOURSE ON WEDNESDAY THE 18th AUGUST 2010

 

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE:  Mrs N M Moffatt Chair

                                          Mr T Castles

 

REGISTRAR:                     Mr K Treweek

 

PRESENT:                         Mr Ross Neal, (Senior Stipendiary Steward)

                                         Mr John Hall (Defendant)

                                         Mr Patrick Campbell, (Licensed Trainer)

 

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

 

18th August 2010

 

 

1.         NATURE OF THE CHARGE

 

1.1              Mr Hall is charged that on Tuesday 3rd August 2010 at Hastings, being a rider who, having being requested by a Stipendiary Steward to supply a sample of his urine which was found, upon analysis, to contain the controlled drug Cannabis as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, committed a breach of Rule 656 (3) of the New Zealand Rules of racing AND THAT you are thereby liable to the penalty or penalties which may be imposed upon your pursuant to the provisions of Rule 803 of the said Rules.

 

1.2              Rule 656 (3) provides as follows:

 

“A Rider who, having been required by a Stipendiary Steward or Investigator to supply a sample of his blood, breath, urine, saliva or sweat (or more than one thereof) in accordance with this Rule must not have blood, breath, urine, saliva, or sweat (whichever is the subject of the applicable sample) which is found upon analysis to contain any controlled drug as defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 or other illicit substance or diuretic and/or its metabolites, artifacts or isomers.

 

1.3              Mr Hall admitted the charge and acknowledged that he had received a copy of Rule 656 (3) and that he understood that Rule.

 

2          FACTS

 

2.1       Mr Neal provided written authority from the Chief Executive of NZTR to proceed with the charge against Mr Hall and he also presented a “Summary of Facts” relating to this charge.

 

2.2       On Tuesday 3rd August 2010 NZTR officials attended Hastings Racecourse for the purpose of conducting drug testing on persons riding track work that morning.

 

2.3       Mr Hall, who holds a Class A Miscellaneous licence, was one of the persons selected to be tested. He was served with the appropriate notice and directed to attend the testing station prior to leaving the course that day.

 

2.4       Mr Hall duly attended the testing station as requested and supplied a sample of his urine which was given a unique ID number. That sample was delivered to the ESR Laboratory by Senior Steward Neal the following day.

 

2.5       NZTR received a certificate from ESR dated 6th August 2010 stating that the sample had tested positive to cannabis. (Copy of document provided)

 

2.6       On 11th August 2010 Mr Hall was handed a copy of the ESR certificate and a stand-down notice pursuant to Rule 657 (1) (b). (Produced in evidence)

 

2.7       Mr Hall was interviewed on the 11th August and said that he was at a loss as to how he had tested positive although he did acknowledge cannabis use some time ago but thought it would be well clear of his system. He said that he was on some other medication which may have given rise to the adverse result.

 

2.8       The defendant said that he derives his income from riding track work for various trainers in the Hawke’s Bay region and that his exclusion from riding would seriously compromise his financial position.

 

2.9       During the process of testing and subsequent interview Mr Hall was totally cooperative and provided open and honest answers to all enquiries.

 

2.10     Mr Hall acknowledged that the facts as presented by Mr Neal were correct and informed the committee that Mr P. Campbell would be speaking on his behalf.

 

2.11     Mr Campbell said that Mr Hall partook of a cannabis cigarette as it was passed around a group of people watching a rugby test in July. He was adamant that the defendant was not a regular cannabis user.

 

2.12          Mr Hall has a long history of major health problems and could do only minimal work when he started helping out in Mr Campbell’s racing stable 9 months ago. His health since then has been steadily improving to the point where he was able to rider four horses at recent jump-outs. Mr Campbell suggested that these health issues may have caused him to retain traces of cannabis in his system from that one isolated incident.

 

2.13          Mr Hall supplied a letter from his doctor at The Hastings Health Centre. Dr Twigg outlined Mr Hall’s health issues and acknowledged that the prescription drugs he had been taking had made him very ill. He also said that that the road back to health had not been easy for him and it was to his credit that he was now back working.

 

 

3.         PENALTY SUBMISSIONS BY MR NEAL for NZTR

 

3.1              NZTR commenced drug testing riders in 1995 and since this time there has been growing awareness that an absolute obligation rests with those riding horses to present themselves free of the influence of any drug or drugs at all times.

 

3.2              NZTR has an illicit drugs free policy in terms of all riders whether they are riding in races, trials or track work. Racing Clubs who operate training facilities are also mindful that they have an obligation to provide a safe working environment.

 

3.3              These policies relating to drugs have been well gazetted and riders have been made fully aware of the potential consequences should they imbibe in such drugs.

 

3.4              In fact drug testing of riders is now an important aspect of the New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry and it is carried out for the reasons of maintaining the integrity of the industry and just as importantly it is conducted for reasons of maintaining health and safety in the workplace.

 

3.5              In addition to the workplace and integrity aspects it is important that riders do not unduly put at risk horses of value and worth by way of them taking or administering an illicit substance.

 

3.6              The fact that a rider has the presence of an illicit substance in his system represents a real risk to not only themselves but also to others.

 

3.7              Penalties imposed against track riders relating to cannabis offending have, in recent times, been a modest suspension of their rider’s licence coupled with a fine. In the main penalties for first offenders has been by way of suspension of 6 weeks plus a modest fine.

 

3.8              Mr Neal produced a table of recent breaches relating to cannabis use which showed penalties ranging from 4 week suspensions up to and including 6 week suspensions.

 

3.9              It is acknowledged that while the reading falls in the low to mid-range region there rests with the Defendant an absolute duty to present himself free of any drugs on the day of testing. A duty which he did not discharge.

 

3.10           Mr Neal did not consider Mr Hall to be a regular cannabis user but rather he had made a silly mistake and that cannabis can stay in the system for a long time.

 

 

3.11          It is also acknowledged that Mr Hall has had issues relating to his health which he has worked hard at overcoming. This is to his credit.

 

3.12          It is also recognised that the Defendant has not appeared before a Judicial Committee in the past.

 

3.13          Having recognition of all the factors it is the Informant’s submission that the appropriate penalty to be imposed in this case should be a suspension of 6 weeks together with a small fine. NZTR also seek costs of $150.00

 

4.         PENALTY SUBMISSIONS BY MR HALL

 

4.1              Mr Campbell said that the positive sample returned by Mr Hall was proof of his guilt however there were mitigating factors as outlined earlier.

 

4.2              A suspension would be terribly detrimental to Mr Hall’s fitness as he would not be able to work and all the progress he had made towards better health could be lost.

 

4.3              Mr Campbell asked the committee to consider a fine only which he (Mr Campbell) would guarantee.

 

4.4              Several people would be penalised if Mr Hall were to lose his license.

 

4.5              Mr Hall apologised sincerely for his actions and the need for everyone to be here today.

 

 

5.         DECISION AND PENALTY

 

5.1              In coming to a decision as to penalty this Committee carefully considered all of the evidence put before it as well as the penalty submissions.

 

5.2              We took into account Mr Hall’s full and frank admission of the breach, his remorse, and the fact that, despite a long association with the racing industry, he has not previously offended.

 

5.3              The integrity of racing however is paramount and the racing industry has made it quite clear that drugs will not be tolerated. The safety of both horse and riders is at risk if riders are under the influence of drugs.

 

 

5.4              The committee does acknowledge the hurdles that Mr Hall has had to overcome however we must impose a penalty that is consistent with the penalties imposed in similar cases.

 

 

5.5              A monetary penalty only would be sending the wrong image to the racing industry and would not serve as a deterrent to Mr Hall or others who might be tempted to use drugs.

 

5.6              The list of penalties put before us for cannabis range from 4 to 6 week suspensions. It is the opinion of this committee that Mr Hall’s breach falls at the lowest end. The evidence presented indicates a person who is not a habitual user but someone who made one mistake. A longer period of suspension would be detrimental to Mr Hall’s ongoing rehabilitation.

 

5.7              In view of the fact that Mr Hall’s licence was withdrawn on 10th August 2010 we formally reinstate his licence as at the date 18th August 2010.

 

5.8              Taking all of the above matters into account we are satisfied that an appropriate penalty in this case is a suspension of Mr Hall’s licence for a period of 4 weeks. The suspension is to take effect as from the date on the issue of the “license withdrawal notice” which is 11th August 2010 and is to end on 8th September 2010, both dates inclusive.

 

5.9              We are satisfied that the costs sought by NZTR were reasonable and there is an order to pay $150.00 costs to NZTR.

 

5.10          It was explained to Mr Hall that he would also be required to pay a portion of the JCA costs and there was an order he pay the sum of $200.00 to the JCA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                   

N M Moffatt                                                                T Castles

Chairman                                                                      Committee

                                               

 

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