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Non Raceday Inquiry - T Harris 09 March 09



528.1
1003.1
1003.1.b

1.            NATURE OF INQUIRY

1.1          This is a hearing of a non raceday Judicial Committee. The Committee is considering a charge brought against the licensed jockey Mr Troy Harris.

1.2          On the 21st February this year at Matamata Mr Harris was required to provide a urine sample and this was found upon analysis to contain the controlled drug cannabis. Mr Harris has pleaded guilty to a breach of Rule 528(1) of the Rules of Racing.



BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

AT TE RAPA, HAMILTON

                                                    IN THE MATTER       of the New Zealand Rules of Racing

                                                    BETWEEN                NEW ZEALAND THOROUGHBRED RACING

                                                                                                                      Informant

                                                    AND                         TROY N HARRIS, Licensed Rider

                                                                                                                      Defendant

DATE OF HEARING                     Monday 09 March 2009

VENUE                                        Waikato Racing Club, Te Rapa Racecourse, Hamilton

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE               Mr M S McKechnie, Chairman

                                                    Mr R M Seabrook

PRESENT                                     Mr John McKenzie, Chief Racecourse Inspector, NZTR

                                                    Mr Bryan McKenzie, Racecourse Inspector, NZTR

                                                    Mr John Oatham, Stipendiary Steward

                                                    Mr Troy Harris

 

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

1.            NATURE OF INQUIRY

1.1          This is a hearing of a non raceday Judicial Committee. The Committee is considering a charge brought against the licensed jockey Mr Troy Harris.

1.2          On the 21st February this year at Matamata Mr Harris was required to provide a urine sample and this was found upon analysis to contain the controlled drug cannabis. Mr Harris has pleaded guilty to a breach of Rule 528(1) of the Rules of Racing.

 

2.            CASE FOR NZTR

2.1          Mr John McKenzie has produced to the committee a summary of facts and extensive submissions on the appropriate penalty. He has also made available to the committee a written signed statement completed by Mr Harris on the 25th February when he was spoken to by Mr Bryan McKenzie.

2.2          Mr Harris was spoken to here at Te Rapa. He was retested on the 26th February. That test was also positive. This may give rise to some scepticism about Mr Harris’ assertion to Mr Bryan McKenzie the day before that he had only two puffs of a joint on the 17th February. Be that as it may the position was that in accordance with Rule 528A (the new stand down rule) Mr Harris was not permitted to ride from the 25th February. There has not been a test since.

3.            POSITION OF MR HARRIS

3.1          It is to the credit of Mr Harris that when he was spoken to by Mr Bryan McKenzie on the 25th he did acknowledge some cannabis use. He says that he was upset by what he had done and what it had caused him.

3.2          As Mr John McKenzie noted in his penalty submissions Mr Harris comes from a famous New Zealand racing family and it is particularly regrettable in those circumstances that he should find himself before us today on a charge of this kind. Not only that but Mr Harris is a very talented rider himself and has overcome serious injuries to resume his riding career.

 

4.            SUBMISSIONS ON PENALTY

4.1          We were informed that the penalty ordinarily imposed on a charge of this kind involving Class C controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 is a disqualification of three (3) months.

4.2          Mr John McKenzie proposed a preferred penalty of a period of disqualification followed by a period of suspension. This brings us to a consideration of Rule 1003(1). This rule at first glance provides for the imposition of a monetary penalty and/or a period of disqualification or suspension. Clearly disqualifications and fines can be linked and suspensions and fines can be linked. Mr John McKenzie argues that disqualification and suspension can be linked in the sense that the latter can follow the former. The reasoning behind this interpretation is attractive. It would mean that a license holder who merited a period of disqualification would have that followed by a period of suspension. This would allow the license holder to work in stables, ride track work and ride at trials. In a case where the offence was drug related, as here, it goes without saying that a clear test would be a prerequisite. This period of suspension following the disqualification would enable the rider to regain fitness before race riding. As the rule is now applied where a period of disqualification stands alone the rider is able to return immediately from that period of disqualification to riding in trials and at race meetings. In two cases which this committee has recently had to consider there were significant disqualifications imposed. In cases where disqualification for a significant period is imposed the prospect of some opportunity to get back to riding horses in training and at trials has a lot to recommend it.

4.3          In our view what is being argued for by NZTR is something which should be seriously considered. We do not however believe that Rule 1003(1)(b) can be interpreted in the manner urged by Mr John McKenzie. We would wish that it could be so interpreted for we think there is much to be said for what is proposed. In our view however the correct interpretation of the rule as it stands is that there must be either disqualification or suspension. These penalties are expressed in the alternative. They are not in our view capable of being linked. This means that we cannot accept the NZTR submission.

4.4          The committee does want to say however that the proposition advanced today by NZTR has much to commend it and serious consideration should be given to a rule change which would permit a period of disqualification to be followed by a period of suspension in order to achieve the objectives which we have outlined above and for which NZTR has been contending today.

 

5.            PENALTY IN THIS CASE

5.1          For the reasons which we have set out there must be disqualification and in our judgment we cannot follow that with a period of suspension. Mr Harris, Mr McKenzie and NZTR were proposing what they did largely out of consideration for your interests and we would like to have acceded to their request but the way the rule stands at the moment we don’t believe we can. We will do what we can to urge a change in the rule.  Meantime with the rule in the form in which it presently stands we can’t follow disqualification with a period of suspension. The disqualification will be from the 25th February this year for a period of three (3) months and in addition Mr Harris will pay the sum of $270.00 to NZTR in respect of the drug testing, costs to NZTR of $450.00 and costs to the JCA of $250.00.

 

 

Murray McKechnie

Chairman

10th  March 2009
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