News 2 June 2016

Best’s solicitor: independent inquiry needed into BHA disciplinary process

The Solicitor acting for Jim Best in his successful appeal against a four-year ban argues that a fully independent inquiry is needed into the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) disciplinary process. Best’s Solicitor, Harry Stewart-Moore, alleged that senior BHA staff were aware that Solicitor Matthew Lohn was paid for other BHA work while he ruled in a number of cases as Chairman of the BHA’s independent disciplinary commission.

“It very much appears as though senior members of the BHA’s staff – including its senior internal lawyers – were fully aware of the fact that the BHA was paying Mr Lohn for well over over two years while he sat as Chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel on numerous cases”, said Stewart-Moore. “It further appears that these individuals ignored the clear warnings of the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association] as to the extraordinary impropriety of that arrangement for at least a year. Even more troublingly it appears that the BHA offered Mr Lohn the possibility of earning potentially enormous sums of money by asking him to tender for the work of advising on a complete re-draft of the BHA rules at around the time he was appointed Chairman in the Best matter. On the basis of the information that is currently available, it does not look as as though any of this was an oversight or mistake on the part of the BHA. Rather, it looks intentional. Put bluntly, there is therefore every possibility that senior individuals at the BHA acted in a manner that was either grossly incompetent or improper.”

Yesterday, the BHA announced that following the Best case, it would be appointing ‘Christopher Quinlan QC, an independent expert in the field of sports governance and regulation, to lead the review of the structure, composition and operation of our Disciplinary Panel’. However, in another apparent conflict of interest, Quinlan sits alongside Matthew Lohn on the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP). The NADP is operated by Sport Resolutions, who have been engaged by the BHA to nominate suitable legal Chairs for Disciplinary Panel cases where a legally-qualified Chair is required. “This bizarrely self-congratulatory document represents a completely inadequate response to recent revelations about the workings of the BHA’s integrity department”, said Stewart-Moore.

‘We can confirm that, with the exception of Matthew Lohn, no other member of the Disciplinary Panel has received payment from the BHA for work that was not related to their role as a Disciplinary Panel member’, read the BHA statement, confirming that Disciplinary Panel members are paid for their work by the BHA. There is nothing unusual in that, however it has been alleged that the BHA’s control over who is appointed to the Disciplinary Panel has allowed it to influence decisions.

As part of the acceleration of its Integrity Review announced yesterday, the BHA also engaged Ian Mill QC, who has been carrying out a review of all cases in which Matthew Lohn sat as a Panel member since October 2013, which is the first time that the BHA say they asked him to provide separate advice. Lohn has been involved in over 15 cases since then, four of which are specific integrity cases. Over the last ten years, Lohn has been involved in 15 specific integrity cases involving 31 people, all of which have had their case proven against them.

“For such individuals to remain in their roles in the absence of any explanation as to their conduct while yet further reviews into the BHA’s dysfunctional integrity department are undertaken is, in any sane world, completely unacceptable”, continued Stewart-Moore. “This is not least because it would appear quite possible that the very individuals whose conduct ought to be under review will be precisely the same individuals instructing the relevant barristers in relation to these reviews. The BHA’s ability to uphold integrity in horse racing currently looks to be hanging by a thread. The answer is not yet more defensive PR-speak about being committed to ‘learning lessons’ and more reviews carried out on the BHA’s own terms. The answer is to explain precisely what happened with complete transparency before it’s too late.”

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