Best fallout could lead to reopening of seven cases

Trainer Jim Best

Up to seven cases could be reopened following Best’s quashed conviction

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

 By Tom Kerr 4:40PM 14 JUL 2016 

AS MANY as seven disciplinary cases could be reopened after being identified by a leading QC as being potentially unsound due to the involvement of solicitor Matthew Lohn, who for more than two years was being paid to advise the BHA while also sitting as a supposedly independent member of the sport’s disciplinary panels.

Lohn’s involvement as the chairman of the disciplinary panel that found Jim Best guilty of non-trier charges has already resulted in that conviction being quashed and a rehearing ordered, and on Thursday an appeal board looking into the conviction of trainer Paul Gilligan also sent that case for a rehearing.

However, while Best was reimbursed for his costs in all disciplinary hearings up to and including his appeal, the BHA has only been ordered to repay Gilligan’s appeal costs. The authority, which offered a comprehensive apology to Best at his appeal hearing, has also apologised to Gilligan.

Ian Mill QC was appointed to review all the cases Lohn had been involved in since October 2013, when the solicitor was first asked to provide separate advice to the BHA. All seven cases involve guilty verdicts and penalties being imposed. The BHA did not reveal the seven cases or who they concern, although Lohn, as one of two legally trained chairs used on disciplinary panels, presided over a number of important hearings.

These included the hearing into former owners Alan Findlay, who was convicted on corruption charges, and Anthony Knott, accused of passing inside information, as well as that of the trainer Gerard Butler, who admitted to doping his horses with anabolic steroids. Although Lohn also chaired the high-profile Mahmood Al Zarooni case, in which the former Godolphin trainer was banned for eight years on doping charges, that predated his work with the BHA by several months.

The BHA will now write to the concerned parties identified by Mill’s review. Although there is no official or established process to follow now, one potential course of action would be for those seeking a review of their verdict or punishment to go through an arbitration process, in which an independent third party would determine whether there is a case to be answered.

Responsible action

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said: “We are acting fairly, responsibly and proactively to deal with this matter and to address issues arising from a small number of past cases involving Matthew Lohn. We will provide support and guidance to anyone who decides to come forward to discuss any concerns that they might have and how best to resolve them.”

Mill’s review was one of two commissioned in the wake of Best’s conviction being quashed. Another QC, Christopher Quinlan, is leading a review of the sport’s disciplinary and licensing processes and is due to report to the BHA on September 13. However, neither review had oversight to reflect on the errors that led to Lohn being allowed to continue sitting as a disciplinary panel member for years after beginning to advise the BHA on separate matters, even after a perception of bias concern was raised by the Professional Jockeys Association a year before he was appointed to the Best panel.

The BHA has previously said an internal review into the affair had been conducted, with external input, but has repeatedly refused to make further comment until after the conclusion of the Best rehearing, which is not expected to take place until September at the earliest.

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