HEARINGS OF KIEREN FALLON, FERGAL LYNCH AND DARREN WILLIAMS BEFORE THE SPECIAL PANEL OF THE HRA – RESULT
Published: Friday 07 Jul 2006
HEARINGS OF KIEREN FALLON, FERGAL LYNCH AND DARREN WILLIAMS BEFORE THE SPECIAL PANEL OF THE HRA – RESULT
1. On Monday of this week Fergal Lynch, Kieren Fallon and Darren Williams were charged by the City of London Police with conspiracy to defraud. The particulars of the charge were:
“Miles Rodgers, Fergal Lynch, Shaun Lynch, Kieren Fallon, Darren Williams and Philip Sherkle between the first day of December 2002 and the second day of September 2004 conspired together and with persons unknown or other persons to defraud account holders of Betfair Limited, and/or those persons who placed bets with bookmakers or through the facilities provided by the Horserace Totalisator Board, by dishonestly:
a) agreeing not to permit divers horses ridden by Fergal Lynch and/or Kieren Fallon and/or Darren Williams to run on their merits in that riding practices would, if necessary, be used which would interfere with the running of those horses and thereby affect the result of those races, and then;
b) laying those horses to lose on the exchange provided by Betfair Limited for betting transactions conducted between its account holders”.
2. Conditions which were attached to the licences of Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams when they were granted came into effect upon charge, so that their jockey’s licences immediately expire. They now apply to us, being the relevant panel of HRA, to issue them with new licences. In the case of Kieren Fallon his licence to ride is issued by the Irish Turf Authority. Normally this licence would permit him to ride in the UK, but this week he has been serving a 4 day ban (which expired yesterday) imposed by the Stewards at Ascot. We now consider whether, in the light of the charges made against him on Monday, we should suspend his licence until trial under Rule 1(a)(xxv).
3. It is obvious from reading the charge that it is a very serious matter in the racing context; in that, if proved, it means that 3 jockeys have over a period of 21 months with criminal intent arranged with others to fix a number of races, so that others would with confidence lay certain horses to lose on the Betting Exchanges. They could do this with confidence because the jockeys would do their best to ensure that the horses would not win. The losers, of course, in such a situation, are many. First there is the owner, whose horse is stopped. It does not get a fair run. Then there is the trainer, who has trained the horse to run as well as possible. His efforts are nullified. And, of course, there are the punters, who back the horse, and who do not get a fair run for their money, and end up losing it. Another major loser in such a situation, is Horseracing itself whose integrity is impugned by such conduct. Whatever action we take must reflect the role of the Regulator whose task is to attempt to ensure that the manner in which the sport is run is fair and honest.
4. All that said, the situation here is that, after lengthy investigation, the City of London Police have charged these men. Each of them firmly denies the charge. In due course the Jury will have to decide whether or not the charge is proved. We know only the wording of the charge and certain other limited details either given to us by the representatives of Kieren Fallon or which we have come by in the normal course of our Regulatory duties (e.g. we are aware that Miles Rogers, who is one charged with the jockeys, was warned off on 2nd April 2004). It is not for us to seek to assess the strength of the case for the prosecution or the defence, but we know that a responsible public authority, the CPS, under the guidance of the DPP has taken the view that the evidence collected raises at least a prima facie case against these jockeys.
5. The principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty underpins our society and our criminal law. It is of special importance in a situation such as this where consideration is being given to action which would seriously prejudice the ability of these three jockeys to follow their chosen careers. We bear it carefully in mind, giving full weight to the powerful submissions which have been made on the point on behalf of the jockeys. Additionally, it is the case that no trial of this charge against the men will take place for at least 12 months and possibly longer, i.e. a long gap is inevitable. This is also of great significance when we consider the effect that any suspension is likely to have upon those three individuals.
6. As far as Kieren Fallon is concerned, his Jockey’s Licence is issued by the Irish Turf Authority. We understand that they do not intend to suspend or take any action in connection with that licence until the conclusion of the criminal trial. Accordingly, if we suspend Mr. Fallon’s ability to ride in this country he will still be able to ride in Ireland, and it is not our intention to ask other international racing authorities to activate any suspension which we impose in any other countries. This is because our concern is to protect the integrity of racing in this country, and we must leave it to other authorities to take whatever action they see fit concerning their own jurisdictions.
7. Nevertheless we appreciate that an inability to ride in races in this country would be a very serious setback for Kieren Fallon. He is often put up by very distinguished yards in both high prestige and more ordinary races here; and his major retainer in Ireland often run horses here, frequently with a favourite’s chance in Classic or Group Races. Letters we have seen show that these contacts still support him. He is now 41 years old and his career is at its height. He has been Champion Jockey in the UK on six occasions. To deprive him of the ability to ride here is highly detrimental to his interest. He will most probably lose the retainer at Coolmore after the end of the season. He is an important part of that operation riding potential future stallions as they develop through their racing careers. He is much valued by Coolmore, but they are a commercial concern and we are told that they are only contractually committed to him until the end of this season. We appreciate that any suspension would cause him significant financial damage and that a suspension will also have an adverse effect upon others including his employers and those who he supports.
8. Similar considerations apply to both Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams. Fergal Lynch is aged 28. He is a freelance jockey. He has ridden 25 winners this season and 77 winners last season. His career has been recovering from earlier problems and an inability to ride now will destroy that recovery. Darren Williams is aged 28. He also is a freelance jockey and he has ridden 12 winners here this season and 33 winners last season. If they cannot ride in racing here their main and ostensible means of livelihood is removed from them. Their financial circumstances will be severely curtailed and their incomes dramatically reduced. Both have substantial mortgage commitments. One supports a partner and the other a daughter. Even in the event of ultimate acquittal their careers and career opportunities will have been significantly damaged if they are not granted new licences now.
9. Our task is to balance the potentially conflicting interests of on the one hand the reputation and integrity of racing; and on the other hand the right of the individual to pursue his chosen career. Any orders which are made must be proportionate to all the circumstances, including the individual circumstances just mentioned. We must consider whether the proper objective of protecting the integrity of racing is so damaged by the allegations made against these jockey as to make it necessary to remove the ability of all or any one of them to ride in our races, even before trial.
10. We cannot be concerned to assess the strength or otherwise of the prosecution case. Mr. Fallon’s representatives have sought to persuade us to examine case against him and to conclude that it cannot succeed. Alternatively, they have asked us to make no suspension, at least until they can make a submission that there is no case to answer at a plea and direction hearing before the trial Judge. We have declined this suggestion, since it is not our task to decide on guilt or innocence; nor is it our job to second guess the CPS or the DPP. We merely observe that, after extensive investigations and after receiving powerful representation on behalf of Kieren Fallon, the CPS special crime division has decided to prefer the charge of conspiracy against him as we have described. We further observe that this is a substantially different case to that of Alan Berry, who is charged in connection with only one race.
11. We return to the balancing exercise required of us. We realize the hardship that suspension and the length of time over which such hardship may last will cause; but we also recognize the damage that can be done if persons the subject of a serious criminal charge are permitted to ride pending trial. There is a strong likelihood that during such a period racing would be severely damaged both by the possibility of further race fixing, and the perception of such; and by the adverse reaction of many members of the racing public to the concept that a jockey charged with an offence which is so close to the heart of the sport is permitted to continue to participate. In our view the damage done would be very hard to repair and, as the Regulator, we are anxious to avoid that damage. Accordingly, taking account of all relevant circumstances we have concluded that we will not grant licences to Fergal Lynch or Darren Williams until the conclusion of their trial or further orders. In an attempt to mitigate the financial hardship which this decision will cause them we shall invite the BHB to pay compensation to e ach of them at the relevant PRIS rate, until trial.
12. In the case of Kieren Fallon, we shall make an order under Rule 1(a)(xxv) prohibiting him from riding in races in Great Britain until conclusion of the trial or further orders. Since he remains able to ride abroad we shall not invite any payments of compensation to him by the BHB.
Sir Michael Connell – Panel Chairman – Director of the HRA
Ben Gunn – Director of the HRA
Michael Henriques – Chairman of the HRA Licensing Committee
Friday 7th July 2006
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. All three jockeys can appeal the decision of the Panel to the Appeal Board of the HRA, but under Rule 2(viii) the panel’s decision will remain in effect pending this appeal.
2. The HRA has nothing further to add to this statement.