Following publication of the Appeal Board’s written reasons regarding the Jim Best case, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today announced that it is taking a number of actions to ensure that future Disciplinary Panels are free of any perceptions of bias, and to provide the necessary assurance on past cases.
1. REVIEW OF THE DISCIPLINARY PANEL, APPEAL BOARD AND LICENSING COMMITTEE
We have appointed Christopher Quinlan QC, an independent expert in the field of sports governance and regulation, to lead the review of the structure, composition and operation of our Disciplinary Panel, Appeal Board and Licensing Committee in consultation with our sport’s stakeholders. This work was identified in our recent Integrity Review, but will now be accelerated in order to make recommendations to the BHA Board on 13 September 2016.
The review will build on, and update, the BHA’s current approach in line with current sports best practice. The Terms of Reference for this review are attached.
2. ENSURING DISCIPLINARY CASES CAN CONTINUE EFFECTIVELY IN THE MEANTIME
While Disciplinary Panels do not constitute judicial proceedings, nor are they independent in an organisational sense – we appoint members to Disciplinary Panels and we pay them to carry out their duties – Panel members act independently of the BHA. We appoint legally-qualified chairpersons because they are professional individuals who are capable of exercising independent judgment and operating to high standards of fairness and integrity under professional codes of ethics and conduct.
We remain confident that our disciplinary process overall operates to high standards of fairness and impartiality. Every individual who comes before a Disciplinary Panel has the right to legal representation, and, in certain categories of case, a right of appeal to an Appeal Board. We publish in full the reasons issued by the Disciplinary Panel and Appeal Board for their decisions. It is absolutely right and proper that our processes are fair and are seen to be fair, especially given the potential to impact on people’s livelihoods and the integrity of our sport.
Over the past nine years since the BHA was first established, the Disciplinary Panel has performed its function well. During that time, on the occasions when it has been challenged through Courts of Law, the structure and process of our disciplinary system has stood up to legal challenge.
We have a good track record of detecting, investigating and dealing with the small minority of people who seek to gain unfair advantage by cheating in our sport. Our sport is cleaner and fairer as a result of the work we do in carrying out our regulatory and integrity functions.
Notwithstanding this, we are determined to learn lessons from this matter and are taking action to ensure that our disciplinary hearings can continue with the confidence of our participants and the public between now and when the findings of the externally-led review are delivered in September.
- During this period, we will not engage any Disciplinary Panel member who has had paid work with the BHA outside of their engagements on the panel or directly related matters. We can confirm that, with the exception of Matthew Lohn, no other member of the Disciplinary Panel has received payment from the BHA for work that was not related to their role as a Disciplinary Panel member.
- The Chair of the Disciplinary Panel, currently Lucinda Cavendish, will take full responsibility for determining the appointment of Chairs and the two other panel members, known as “wingers,” including whether a legally-qualified chair is required – normally for complex cases including those which involve serious allegations of corruption.
- For Disciplinary Panel cases where a legally-qualified Chair is required, we will engage Sport Resolutions, who supply a number of leading sports with assistance in such matters, to nominate suitable legal Chairs.
- For cases not requiring a legally-qualified Chair, Disciplinary Panel members will be selected from the current pool of three Chairs who the BHA have not appointed as legal Chairs, and six wingers.
- We will require each sitting member of a Disciplinary Panel, Appeal Board and Licensing Committee to sign a Declaration of Independence before each hearing, which will be provided to those appearing before them so that they can make any concerns known before the hearing proceeds and these can be dealt with appropriately. This is in addition to the current requirement in the Rules of Racing for Panel members “to declare any interest and to disqualify himself or to seek any waivers of objection as appropriate prior to final selection.”
3. ENSURING VALIDITY OF PAST DISCIPLINARY PANEL DECISIONS
We have engaged Leading Counsel, Ian Mill QC, who has been carrying out a review of all cases in which Matthew Lohn sat as a Panel member since October 2013, the first time he was asked to provide separate advice to the BHA. We will make a further announcement on this in due course.
4. ACCELERATING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF OTHER INTEGRITY REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS
We are taking steps to ensure that the other main recommendations of the Integrity Review will be implemented by the end of September 2016. The accelerated implementation plan will be presented to the BHA Board on 7 June 2016.
Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the BHA, said,
“The issues that have been raised in connection with our disciplinary processes primarily concern perceptions of fairness and the appearance of bias. There have been no suggestions of actual bias against the Disciplinary Panel or its individual members.
“As Chief Executive, I have sought to act promptly and decisively to deal with concerns raised, and following the provision by the Appeal Board of its reasons for its decision on the Jim Best case, I can now publish the actions we have already put in place to ensure that our sport and its participants can have the greatest confidence in the integrity of disciplinary cases, now and in the future.
“We remain committed to publishing a full statement to set out the circumstances that led to the need for a rehearing in the Jim Best case once that case is concluded. As the Appeal Board also identified, it is in the interests of racing and the general public that the Jim Best case is resolved on the basis of the evidence put before the Disciplinary Panel, and we will not seek to do anything that has even the slightest chance of prejudicing its outcome.”
Notes to Editors
1. The Appeal Board’s written reasons regarding the Jim Best case can be found here.