Nick Rust: the BHA chief executive has endorsed Quinlan’s report
PICTURE: Dan Abraham
By Tom Kerr 2:00PM 29 SEP 2016
FORMER jockeys and trainers should sit on a disciplinary panel that is presently “not structurally independent”, a QC has recommended in what represents the most radical review of racing’s judiciary in years.
That change is one of 24 recommendations contained in Christopher Quinlan QC’s report into racing’s disciplinary and licensing systems, which was commissioned following the collapse of the Jim Best non-trier case. The BHA has committed to implement all of his recommendations, which have been welcomed by the Professional Jockeys Association.
In a separate reorganisation of the BHA’s regulatory and integrity functions, Jamie Stier, who has been at the centre of criticism over the BHA’s handling of the Best case, has been appointed chief regulatory officer with broad oversight over disciplinary, integrity, regulation and stewarding matters.
In an 150-page report compiled in three months, Quinlan also recommends that active racecourse stewards no longer also sit as disciplinary panel members, in which function they had previously been occasionally asked to pass judgement on the decisions of peers and colleagues.
The existing panel, Quinlan says, is “insufficiently representative of the sport” and should be opened to all, especially former professionals, with an open and transparent recruitment process.
A new position of judicial panel chairman will be created and the quasi-judicial functions of the BHA will be removed from the regulator’s corporate structure after Quinlan determined that the “the disciplinary panel is not – in a strict legal sense – independent”.
He also addresses controversial triannual meetings between panel members, racecourse stewards and BHA employees, which he recommends should in future only include BHA employees for “appropriate and specifically minuted purposes”.
Although Quinlan makes little comment on past meetings, preferring to base his recommendations in terms of future actions, he cautions that they should “should not be a vehicle by which the regulator or the defence comments upon the correctness or otherwise of the decisions. Nor should it be one in which the regulator or the defence are able to make submissions on, for example, the meaning of the rules or of policies.”
He continues: “It is unnecessary to examine [these meetings] on a meeting by meeting basis, because if my recommendations are accepted in substance, they will be addressed by the consequential reforms.”
Quinlan’s report largely avoids criticism of the under-fire disciplinary system, concluding that it, “when viewed in totality, is fair”. However, he agrees there is “substance” to concerns over the fairness of the disciplinary system and argues that, through embracing his recommendations, racing can create “a modern disciplinary system which consistently delivers, is seen and is accepted to deliver, justice to all”.
The Quinlan review also contains calls for:
– For all disciplinary panels to be chaired by a legally-qualified chairman
– For the panel to be increased to a minimum of 22 members
– For the appeal board to be granted the power to conduct a full rehearing
– For the licensing committee to be merged with the disciplinary panel
However, the review expresses no view on the events leading up to the quashing of Jim Best’s four-year non-trier ban on grounds of appearance of bias due to the undisclosed commercial relationship between the panel chairman, Matthew Lohn, and the BHA. Nor does it address how the existing structure allowed an independent panel chairman to be handed paid work for the regulator, or how the changes proposed might prevent a future occurrence.