Reasons of the Disciplinary Panel regarding Matthew Hopkins’ application to work in a racing stable while disqualified

05 Aug 2015 Disciplinary Integrity

The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on 25 June 2015 held an enquiry to consider whether or not Matthew Hopkins, a former holder of an Apprentice Jockey’s licence, had committed a breach of Rule (D)53.2 of the Rules of Racing, by virtue of the fact that, as a Professional Rider, he placed back bets with one or more Betting Organisations; and Rule (D)53.2, by virtue of the fact that, as a Professional Rider, he placed a lay bet with a betting organisation.

Between 28 January 2013 and 3 February 2014, during which period he was the holder of an Apprentice Jockey’s licence, he had placed 978 back bets on his Bet365 account and eight back bets and one lay bet on his Betfair account

Taking into account:

  1. the number of bets placed;
  2. the time period;
  3. that Mr Hopkins, as an apprentice jockey, was aware of the Rules, and indeed opened his Bet365 account five days before attending the Apprentice Jockey’s Continuation Course, and
  4. failed to be candid on the 1 December 2014 as to his involvement in gambling on horses

the Panel concluded the breaches were of a serious nature and justified a penalty significantly above the entry point.

The Panel therefore disqualified Mr Hopkins for 3 years from 25 June 2015 until 24 June 2018 inclusive.

Shortly after this date, on 10 July 2015, the BHA received an application to allow dispensation for Hopkins to work in a racing stable during his period of disqualification. This application was considered by the Disciplinary Panel who, on 4 August 2015, announced the refusal of that application. The following represents the Disciplinary Panel’s reasons for this decision, as written by the Chairman of the Panel, Philip Curl:

“I am writing regarding the application of Mr Matthew Hopkins pursuant to Rule (A)71.2 of the Rules of Racing to be granted a dispensation so he may resume employment in a racing stable, notwithstanding the fact he has been declared a disqualified person following disciplinary proceedings on 25th June 2015 when he received a three year ban.

“The three members of the Disciplinary Panel sitting on 25th June 2015 have taken the opportunity of considering the following documents:-

1. The Panel’s reasons for disqualification dated 25/6/2015
2. Letter dated 10/7/2015 from Edmondson Hall (the solicitors acting for Mr Hopkins) and supporting letter from Gay Kelleway
3. Letter dated 10/7/2015 from Paul Struthers (Chief Executive, Professional Jockeys Association) together with subsequent emails
4. A copy of the Policy of Racing Welfare in respect of addictions, specifically drugs and alcohol
5. The written response of the BHA (dated 16/7/2015) to the application for dispensation
6. Letter dated 17/7/2015 from Edmondson Hall in reply to the BHA response.

“For the reasons set out below, the Panel refuses the applications on behalf of Mr Hopkins. In reaching the decision, the Panel noted the submissions regarding the severe impact the disqualification is likely to have on Mr Hopkins’ employment prospects, and his future in the racing world generally. They have also noted his relative youth, immaturity and his addiction to gambling on horses at the date of the breaches.

“However, the Panel repeats the contents of the Reasons dated the 25th June 2015, which neither the BHA nor Mr Hopkins sought to appeal. The restriction of Jockeys betting is fundamental to the integrity and good reputation of British horseracing and these were serious breaches, justifying a 3 year ban.

“This application on behalf of Mr Hopkins was made only 2 weeks after the disqualification was imposed and thus Mr Hopkins had barely begun to serve the penalty.

“To allow the application at this early stage would risk sending out the wrong message, not only to Mr Hopkins but also the racing community, that Mr Hopkins’ conduct was not as serious as the penalty imposed on him would suggest.

“In general terms, the Panel endorses the submissions of the BHA set out in its response to the application for dispensation.

“The Panel further considers that a substantial amount of time needs to elapse before the Panel is likely to be satisfied that Mr Hopkins has been thoroughly tested out as to his ability to abide by the Rules of Racing and not relapse in respect of betting on horses.

“The Panel acknowledges that in exceptional cases it may be appropriate for personal, economic or other reasons to permit a person to work in racing where to do so would not substantially negate the intended effect of the penalty. This is not such a case. The Panel see no reason to interfere with the effect of disqualification and therefore dismisses the application.

“The Panel is mindful of the fact that Mr Hopkins can in future make a further request for dispensation. The Panel has been invited to indicate a time, when any such further application might be regarded favourably. The Panel cannot give such indication, as it will depend, amongst other factors, as to what has happened in the interim and the circumstances at the time. However, in an effort to assist Mr Hopkins, his family and those advising him, the Panel considers it likely that a substantial period of the disqualification will need to be served before the Panel can be satisfied that Mr Hopkins will abide consistently with the Rules of Racing and is no longer at risk of relapsing in to betting on horses.”

Notes to Editors

1. The finding and reasons of the Disciplinary Panel relating to the original hearing can be found here.