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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v DJ Walker - Penalty decision dated 25 September 2014

Created on 26 September 2014

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE

JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Thoroughbred

Rules of Racing

BETWEEN THE RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

INFORMANT

AND DAVID JAMES WALKER, Licenced Jockey

DEFENDANT

Judicial Committee: Murray McKechnie, Chairman - Noel McCutcheon, Committee Member

Present: Mr Ross Neal, Co-Chief Stipendiary Steward

Mr David Walker, Licenced Jockey

PENALTY DECISION OF NON-RACEDAY JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

DELIVERED 19 SEPTEMBER 2014

WRITTEN DECISION DATED THIS 25 DAY OF SEPTEMBER 2014

1. Yesterday, the 18 September, the Committee gave its decision in relation to the charges laid by the Racing Integrity Unit against Mr David Walker and indicated that it would today, determine the penalties that were to be imposed. Towards the conclusion of the hearing yesterday, Mr Walker advised the Committee that he may not attend at today’s hearing. It was made clear to him that the choice was his; that if he chose not to attend the hearing would proceed in his absence. It is now coming up to ten past ten in the morning and Mr Walker is not present. The hearing will proceed in his absence.

2. Towards the conclusion of the hearing yesterday, following the decision that the Committee delivered, Mr Neal, on behalf of the Racing Integrity Unit, handed forward detailed penalty submissions which the Committee has considered overnight. With those submissions, Mr Neal provided a number of decisions and authorities, both from within New Zealand and overseas. These bear some comparison with the circumstances that the Committee has found to exist here. We propose to ask Mr Neal to briefly address those submissions. It is not necessary, Mr Neal, for you to read the material from front to back, but we invite you to address us briefly on those matters upon which you place particular emphasis. Thank you.

Mr Neal addresses the Committee.

3. Thank you. Yesterday the Judicial Committee gave its findings in relation to the charges brought by the Racing Integrity Unit against Mr David Walker. It was found that on the 16th of August this year, at the Otaki Maori Racing Club meeting, in Race 3, Mr Walker had ridden his mount Watch Your Man in such a way as to deliberately ensure that it finished behind the horse St Ransom. These two horses were subject to a head-to-head bet which had been put in place by the TAB and Mr Walker had backed the horse St Ransom. The extensive television coverage of the race, as demonstrated by Mr Williamson, the Stipendiary Steward, satisfied the Committee that Mr Walker had acted deliberately to ensure that Watch Your Man did finish behind St Ransom and that Mr Walker’s riding throughout the race had been calculated to ensure that this was the outcome.

4. In relation to the charges arising from the Waverly race meeting on the 31st July 2014, the Committee found the evidence that Mr Walker had deliberately ridden Lil Mer to finish behind the horse Sam I Am upon which horse he had laid bets in a situation where those two horses were the subject of the TAB head-to-head bet, was not sufficiently compelling for a finding of guilt to be arrived at.

5. The alternative charge in relation to the 31 July was a charge laid under Rule 707(1). That is the rule which forbids betting, and Mr Walker acknowledged his responsibility in respect of that. A guilty plea was entered in relation to that charge.

6. The extensive submissions that have been received from Mr Neal are helpful. Mr Walker has chosen not to attend today. It was made clear to him yesterday that the decision as to whether or not he attended this hearing to set penalties was entirely a matter for him, and had he been present he would have been given every opportunity to put forward whatever submissions he chose. That may have helped him and assisted the Committee in arriving at the appropriate penalties. We are conscious of some of the things which Mr Walker said in evidence yesterday in explanation of his conduct, and with reference to his personal circumstances.

7. There are well established principals for sentencing or fixing penalties for breaches of the rules of racing, particularly where the breach constitutes a serious racing offence. These are set out in the Submissions for the RIU and they have been the subject of comment by previous non-race day Judicial Committees and Appeal Tribunals. There is reference in the submissions to the decision of NZTR & Dyke in 2008, and NZTR & Davey also in 2008. Of those four well known sentencing principals, that which this Committee considers the most significant in the present circumstances is that the penalty imposed makes clear the seriousness of the breach and acts as a deterrent for others who might be minded to behave in the same way.

8. This offending by Mr Walker is at a level not previously seen in New Zealand. Indeed, there are few examples anywhere in recent times of conduct that is as objectionable and corrupt as has been revealed to this Committee.

9. Mr Walker, in respect of the charge in relation to the horse Watch Your Man sought to explain himself by saying that he had suffered cramp. In answer to questions from Mr Neal, he told the Committee that this was the only occasion in his riding career when in the course of a race he had suffered cramp. He said it was in his right hand, and in another part of his evidence he spoke of it affecting both his right hand and his right arm. It is in the Committee’s view a quite remarkable coincidence, if indeed it is a coincidence at all, that the only time in his career that Mr Walker says he suffered cramp during the course of a race was on the very occasion when he had backed a horse to beat the one which he was riding, and which horse, St Ransom, was only some short distance ahead of his mount in the closing stages of the race.

10. Further, the Committee was struck by the position that occurred – or the circumstances rather, which occurred in the very next race where Mr Walker rode the horse, Danny Boy. That horse was last at about the 600m or 700m mark. The horse was then guided by Mr Walker away from the running rail, put in a position to challenge, and ridden vigorously to the line and won the race. The contrast between what happened in that race, and the previous race, is extreme.

11. Mr Neal remarked upon those who had been let down by Mr Walker’s conduct. They are a wide range of persons, those who had bets on the race and of course the connections of the horse Watch Your Man. It is particularly unfortunate that the connections of Watch Your Man, Mr Eddie Carson, is an owner and trainer who has supported Mr Walker over a number of years and for whom Mr Walker had ridden many winners, a number of them on this track.

12. In relation to the breach of Rule 707(1), which has to do with the Waverly races on the 31st of July 2014, the circumstances of Mr Walker placing that bet are not essentially in dispute. What is clear, and of concern to the Committee, is that there were two occasions when Mr Walker breached the betting rule, a little more than a fortnight apart. In the Committee’s view, Mr Walker planned these bets carefully and his conduct was – particularly on the occasion of riding Watch Your Man – thought out and calculated. Those are aggravating considerations.

13. In the Committee’s view, there is little that can be said in mitigation of Mr Walker’s conduct. He did acknowledge breach of the betting rules when interviewed by Mr Grimstone. This is of little significance, however, as the evidence of the breaches of the betting rule was very clear. Further on that subject, the Committee does not accept that Mr Walker was, to use his expression “bullied or intimidated” on the 27th of August 2014 when spoken to by Mr Grimstone. Mr Walker had the opportunity to read the statement which was taken. He chose not to do so, and told the Committee that he could not read Mr Grimstone’s handwriting. The statement is before the Committee and the handwriting is not difficult to read. Furthermore, as remarked yesterday during the course of the evidence, Mr Walker signed the statement and wrote in his own handwriting on the statement, “this statement is true and correct” and his signature appears below. In any event, that statement is primarily concerned with the breaches of the betting rule and contains no detailed questions and answers in relation to the riding of Watch Your Man or Lil Mer.

14. In the circumstances that are outlined, a significant period of disqualification is appropriate. It was made clear to Mr Walker yesterday before the hearing concluded that this was the likely outcome. It is for the Committee to determine the appropriate period of disqualification. To do that, we have made reference to the submissions and the decisions put before us by the RIU. Mr Neal is correct when he says that the case before the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horse Racing Authority in 2013 is the decision which bears the closest comparison to the case we have before us. That is the case of a man called Ahern who is described in the decision as an “experienced and capable flat jockey”. He was disqualified for a period of ten (10) years.

15. As to the breaches of the betting rules, there have been decisions in New Zealand, but they bear little comparison with the present circumstances. First because they were isolated, and do not appear to have had the measure of calculation that Mr Walker adopted here. Secondly they are sometime ago and the need to make it clear that this behaviour is unacceptable is even more significant now that head-to-head betting is an option available through the TAB. The Committee has also taken note of the highly publicised Australian case involving the prominent jockey Damien Oliver that was, again somewhat different, in that there was no allegation that Mr Oliver had ridden his own mount other than on its merits.

16. Turning to the charges found to have been proved, we take first the breach of Rule 801(1)(m). This breach involves the application of serious racing offence penalties, and the maximum period of disqualification can be lifetime disqualification. There is also provision under the rule for the imposition of a substantial fine in addition to any period of disqualification.

17. In the Committee’s view, this offending is at the highest level of seriousness and a significant period of disqualification must follow. We have determined that the appropriate period of disqualification is seven years, and on that charge Mr Walker will be disqualified for that period of time, seven years, and that disqualification commences immediately.

18. On the charge under Rule 7071, the betting charge relating to Waverly on the 31st of July 2014, it is also appropriate that there be a period of disqualification. The betting undertaken by Mr Walker was, in our view, thought out and planned with some degree of calculation. The period of disqualification in relation to that breach will be for one year. The two periods of disqualification will run concurrently, that is to say, side by side, so that the total period of disqualification will be seven years.

19. In the circumstances where a significant disqualification has been imposed as we have just advised, we do not consider it appropriate to impose a fine in addition to the period of disqualification. However, Mr Walker has caused a good deal of expense to be incurred in investigating his conduct, and in conducting this hearing. He must therefore make a contribution towards the costs of the Racing Integrity Unit and to the costs of the Judicial Control Authority. He will be ordered to pay $1,500 towards to the costs of the RIU, and $1,500 towards the costs of the JCA.

20. Mr Neal, will you please ensure that these penalty decisions which we have just made known are conveyed to Mr Walker at the earliest opportunity.

21. This written decision has issued on Thursday 25 September 2014 and that is the date from which any relevant time limits are to commence.

MURRAY MCKECHNIE

Chairman

Signed pursuant to Rule 920(5)

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