Best case panel recommends changes to BHA guidelines

Trainer Jim Best

The Jim Best case has raised concerns about the BHA’s penalty guidelines

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

 By Peter Scargill 11:54AM 14 DEC 2016 

THE BHA should amend its guidelines for penalties for those found guilty of the same offences as Jim Best, according to the disciplinary panel responsible for punishing the trainer.

Best was suspended for six months by the independent disciplinary panel on Monday for instructing jockey Paul John to deliberately not win on two horses and for conduct prejudicial to racing’s reputation.

In its written reasons for the penalty, the panel suggested the BHA amend the guidelines for such offences if it feels the penalty in cases such as Best’s are not strong enough.

The statement from the three-man panel compromising Sir William Gage, William Norris QC and Nicholas Wachman, said: “In reaching [the] 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.”

It added: “Speaking for ourselves, we can see that might better reflect the gravity of the kind of misconduct we find here.”

Best’s penalty, which he can appeal, was handed down after the panel had taken into consideration the length of time it had taken from the original hearing in the spring until Monday and the effect a disqualification would have on Best’s staff.

It also stated no fine was given to the trainer as he had already suffered “adverse financial consequences” and may do so in the future as well.

All parties criticised

The panel was critical of both Best and the BHA. Best was said to have been found guilty of “the sort of dishonest practices [that] strike at the heart of racing’s integrity” and that he took advantage of a “vulnerable” jockey in John when instructing him to make sure Echo Brava and Missile Man did not run on their merits last year.

As for the BHA, as well as being told its guidelines for penalties were unclear and unhelpful it was also chastised for the case rolling on until December after the original verdict handed down by the Matthew Lohn-chaired disciplinary panel in April was quashed over the perception of bias.

The statement said: “In deciding on the length of the suspension, we also took account of the fact that the matter should have been resolved eight months ago and that the delay is not his [Best’s] responsibility.

“We also decided suspension rather than disqualification or withdrawal of the training licence was appropriate not least because of the adverse impact 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.” 

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