Disciplinary Panel reasons for penalty (Jim Best)

14 Dec 2016

The Disciplinary Panel, which acts independently of the BHA, has today issued its written reasons for the penalty it imposed in the case involving trainer Jim Best.

Mr Best’s licence was suspended for six months by the Disciplinary Panel in a judgment handed down on Monday 12 December. This followed their decision to have found him in breach of two counts of Rule (C)45 and one count of Rule (A)30 following a five-day hearing which ran from 21-25 November 2016. A stay of seven days was placed upon the penalty, pending any appeal.

Their written reasons for penalty are as follows.

The reasons for penalty have been added to the end of the full decision/reasons document, which can be found here. This is the reason for the paragraph numbering commencing from 149.


149.    On Monday 12th December the Panel met to consider the appropriate penalties following our findings that Mr Best was in breach of Rule (C)45 as regards as ECHO BRAVA and MISSILE MAN (IRE) on 14th and 17th December 2015 respectively and in breach of Rule (A)30.1. We heard and read submissions from Mr Weston and from Mr Laidlaw QC and also took account of a written statement by Mr Best (who could not be present in person) and a Note from his doctor. We gave a brief summary of our decision at the hearing. This is a fuller version of our reasons.

150.    In their submissions, Mr Weston and Mr Laidlaw QC both drew our attention to the BHA’s current (2016) Guidelines to Procedures and Penalties. As regards the Rule (C)45 breaches, Mr Weston accepted that the case fell under categories (e), (f) and (g) on page 10 of the Guidelines where the ‘entry point’ sanction is a financial penalty of £7,500 and a ‘range’ is given of £5,000-£30,000 . The Notes also deal with second and third offences: this case involves a second offence but a financial penalty is still the recommended sanction. As regards Rule (A) 30, the recommended penalties are at page 46. Here the ‘entry point’ is said to be a fine of £2000 or suspension/withdrawal/disqualification for 3 months. The ‘range’ is a fine of £1000-£15,000 and suspension/withdrawal/disqualification for a period of 1 month to 3 years.

151.    Our attention was also drawn by Mr Laidlaw QC to the 2008 decision as regards Michael Wigham and Jamie Mackay and the running and riding of GRANAKEY (IRE), a decision which  is in our papers for this hearing [C/8/126]. We note that the sanction imposed in that case did not involve any period of suspension or disqualification. We accept that consistency of decision-making is important but it is also true that no two cases are alike. In particular, there is a very considerable difference between that case and this. There, the ‘stopping’ instructions were given to an experienced jockey. Here, the worst feature of the case is the fact that Mr Best, the trainer, suborned a young Conditional Jockey to do wrong when he should have been taking steps to guide him in the right direction as opposed to engaging in dishonest practices.

152.    Mr Best has, we were told, no relevant disciplinary history. We also bear in mind that, but for the BHA’s errors of process and the inadequacy of the reasons given by the previous Panel, this case should have been concluded by the beginning of April this year (the original decision was dated 4th April 2016). We heard and we accept that, regardless of the expenses involved in legal representation, the case has already had serious consequences for Mr Best’s business and that the number of horses in his yard has reduced from over 30 to 13 during the course of the last 12 months.

153.    Nevertheless, this is a serious case in all the circumstances. There is, in our judgment, no mitigation. The sort of dishonest practices involved here strike at the heart of racing’s integrity. In addition, Mr John was young and vulnerable and Mr Best took advantage of him. Far from acknowledging what he had done, Mr Best persisted in denying his wrongdoing and pursued a strategy of characterising Mr John as a liar who, for his own base reasons, had decided to blame the trainer whilst attempting to conceal his shortcomings as a character and as a jockey. That strategy has failed and we have found that Mr John rode as he did because those were Mr Best’s instructions.

154.    In our judgment, a period of suspension is appropriate and we order that Mr Best’s licence is suspended for 6 months with effect from 20th December 2016 to 19th June 2017, 7 days grace being given so that Mr Best can consider whether he wishes to pursue an appeal against our decision and can have time to arrange his affairs appropriately if he decides not to – see Rule (A)85.5. In reaching that decision, we gained only limited assistance from the guidelines as to the length of that suspension. As a comment, we suggest that if the BHA regards suspension or disqualification for a longer period as appropriate for such a case as the present, then it would be wise were the Guidelines to reflect that policy directly and with clarity. Speaking for ourselves, we can see that might better reflect the gravity of the kind of misconduct we find here.

155.    The penalty applies as a single, overall, sanction in respect of all three matters for which we have found Mr Best to be in breach of the Rules. In deciding on the length of the suspension, we also took account of the fact that the matter should have been resolved 8 months ago and that the delay since then is not his responsibility (apart from the obvious point that matters would have been resolved even sooner had he promptly admitted his guilt). We also decided that suspension rather than disqualification or withdrawal of the training licence was appropriate not least because of the adverse impact that those alternatives would have had on those who work for Mr Best and are innocent of wrongdoing. We do not impose any additional financial penalty. The adverse financial consequences that Mr Best has already faced and will face in the future are considerable and we do not regard it as appropriate to add further to them.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Panel for the hearing was: Sir William Gage, William Norris QC and Nicholas Wachman.

2. The full result and reasons document can be found here.

3. The BHA’s Guide to Procedures and Penalties document can be found here.

4. The charges against Jim Best were as follows:

Whether Jim Best committed a breach of Rule (C)45 of the Rules of Racing concerning the running and riding of ECHO BRAVA in the J H Builders Novices’ Hurdle at Plumpton on 14 December 2015, as a result of the rider intentionally failing to ensure that the horse was run on its merits.

Whether Jim Best committed a breach of Rule (C)45 of the Rules of Racing concerning the running and riding of MISSILE MAN (IRE) in the Totepool Betting On All UK Racing Maiden Hurdle Race at Towcester on 17 December 2015, as a result of the rider intentionally failing to ensure that the horse was run on its merits.

Is Jim Best in breach of Rule (A)30 of the Rules of Racing in connection with the running and riding of ECHO BRAVA at Plumpton on 14 December 2015 and/or MISSILE MAN at Towcester on 17 December 2015.