• Dean McKeown’s appeal against the penalty imposed for being in breach of Rules 201(v) and 157 is dismissed
• Dean McKeown ordered to pay £5000 in costs
The Appeal Board of the British Horseracing Authority on 15 and 16 December 2008, heard an appeal lodged by Dean McKeown, a former licensed jockey, against the decision of the Disciplinary Panel following its enquiry on 29 September – 3 October 2008. This appeal was dismissed on the 17th December and the reasons for the dismissal of the appeal were published on 19th January 2009. Subsequent to that, the Appeal board has received written submissions on the penalty from both parties.
Decision on Penalty
The Appeal Board received written submissions on the penalty of 4 years’ disqualification imposed by the Panel. Essentially it was said on behalf of the appellant that 4 years was too harsh and gave rise to an unfair disparity between 4 years’ and 2½ years’ disqualification imposed on Paul Blockley.
The Panel set out its reasons in its “Reasons for Penalties”. Two main observations were that the appellant was guilty of four breaches of Rule 157, as opposed to Paul Blockley’s involvement only in the last and least serious breach, and his personal mitigation.
Since the Board was not persuaded to set aside any of the Panel’s findings of fact, we adopt them for present purposes.
That a jockey should involve himself in this type of corrupt betting conspiracy, be prepared to ride to lose, if necessary, to protect the lay bets, and does so on four occasions, is conduct that racing, or any sport, can well do without. It is the most serious breach of duty towards all those involved with the horses in question, the racing public and indeed fellow professionals. In the minds of those who might doubt the racing industry’s integrity, it casts suspicion on the multitude of dedicated, honest, hard-working and talented individuals who constitute the backbone of the sport.
Save in exceptional circumstances, the Board can see no reason for an individual guilty of such conduct continuing in racing. We would be surprised if such a jockey’s weighing-room colleagues, whom he has so badly let down, would take a different view; but that is the view of the Board.
Obviously, each case must be judged on its own merits and proper notice should always be taken of any mitigating circumstances. None was proffered here.
Paul Blockley’s position was also very serious but the Panel’s reasons for regarding it as less so were valid, and his personal circumstances were fully explained. The Board does not consider that the shorter disqualification in his case reveals any objectionable disparity, nor that 4 years’ disqualification is too long.
There are a few specific matters to which the Board should refer.
In the submissions on behalf of the appellant, it was mentioned that Paul Blockley had been allowed to continue to work in racing and live in a house on the premises. The circumstances leading to that decision of the Panel were very different from those relating to the appellant. They are in part set out in the Panel’s reasons and the decision was, in any event, the result of an application under Rule 201 (v). The appellant has made no such application.
Complaint was also made in the submissions that the Panel was not justified in finding that the appellant was “the central figure in the conspiracy” (para 3 Reply) and was “the prime mover in the conspiracy” (para 5 Reply). Further, that no such case was suggested by the BHA. Such submissions are, in the Board’s view, an inaccurate reflection of the Panel’s reasons. Nowhere does it find the appellant was “the central figure” nor “the prime mover,” simply that he participated in the conspiracy described in the Reasons “to the fullest extent” (para 2 Reasons for Penalties). It was Clive Whiting whom the Panel found to be the central figure (para 9 Reasons for Penalties). Reference to the Panel’s main Decision and Reasons also confirms this, as do the penalties imposed on Clive Whiting and other conspirators.
It is also suggested that the appellant:
“is unable to advance this argument (that Paul Blockley was more implicated than found) given the Appeal Board’s ruling as to the “new evidence”. In any event it is not accepted that this evidence was “new” as it was all in the unused material which was in the hands of the BHA and should have been admitted by the Appeal”.
The “ruling” referred to is, presumably, a reference to the Board’s disinclination to express a view on two suggestions made during the appeal by the appellant’s Leading Counsel, namely, that Paul Blockley had lied in evidence before the Panel and had, in conjunction with an unnamed farrier, deliberately mis-shod a horse which duly lost its front shoes in a race. The Board has already given its reasons but since this matter is persisted with, adds the following comments:
1. The Board was told by Mr Louis Weston [counsel for the BHA], without contradiction, that neither of these matters had been raised before the Panel, nor put to Paul Blockley. Since it is now said that “the evidence” was in the unused material, it was available to the appellant and Mr Christopher Stewart-Moore [solicitor for Mr McKeown] and could have been utilised had they so chosen;
2. The mis-shoeing allegation is an extremely serious one and amounts to an allegation that trainer and farrier risked the safety not only of the jockey riding the horse, but others who could be involved in the likely mishap;
3. It is an allegation that demanded further factual enquiry, not only of trainer and farrier (who could have been identified) but other course officials and staff; none was undertaken;
4. Since no such investigation was carried out, there was no application to the Board to admit any new evidence;
5. It seems to be the present suggestion that the Board not only should have further considered the partial evidence but drawn factual conclusions adverse to the alleged participants in their absence and without notice;
6. It is the Board’s view that para 2 of the appellant’s Reply on Penalty (submitted by Mr Stewart-Moore) is unrealistic and is rejected.
The appeal against penalty is dismissed.
The BHA seeks an award of costs. It has incurred costs of around £9,500 in relation the Appeal and seeks an Order for £7,500. No Order is sought in respect of the hearing before the Panel.
The Board is concerned to strike a reasonable balance between not discouraging genuine appeals whilst not leaving the BHA to pay all costs when an appeal fails.
No submission has been made that the appellant is impecunious and no such evidence was before the Board.
The Board makes a costs Order in the sum of £5,000.
Finally, at paras 2 and 3 of Mr Stewart-Moore’s submissions it is suggested that the Board held “that the “legal” and “dictionary” definitions of corrupt submitted by Leading Counsel were correct but not applicable, that it was the first time a BHA Tribunal had so held and that “there were good reasons for those advising the Appellant to proceed on the basis that a legal interpretation of the Rules and the general law would be a proper basis on which to appeal.”
Insofar as the Board understands precisely what is suggested in these passages, it adds only that such suggestions may arise from an erroneous reading of the Reasons.
13 February 2009
Notes for Editors:
1. The members of the Appeal Board for the hearing were: Sir Roger Buckley (Chairman), The Hon Mrs Jane Gillies and Christopher Hodgson
2. Dean McKeown is a disqualified person until 12 November 2012.
3. An investigation by the British Horseracing Authority into the betting patterns on the race at Southwell on the 4th November, in which Dean McKeown was found in breach of Rule 157 for his ride on RASCAL IN THE MIX (USA) continues.