News 7 September 2016

Rehearing of Best case delayed until November

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has set a 21 November provisional date for the rehearing of Jim Best’s appeal against a four-year ban for allegedly illegally ordering a jockey to stop his horse, after Best’s legal team yesterday successfully challenged the BHA’s initial provisional date of 19 September. “The BHA had provisionally scheduled a rehearing date for 19 September, and a provisional Disciplinary Panel for the rehearing”, explained a BHA spokesperson. “It was made very clear that Mr Best had the opportunity to challenge the timing and the constitution of the Panel should he so wish, and that, in the interests of fairness, any challenges would be placed into the hands of the Disciplinary Panel, rather than the BHA Executive.”

“Such a challenge was considered by the Chair of the proposed Panel, William Norris QC, who has determined that the rehearing should be arranged provisionally for 21 November for five days”, continued the BHA spokesperson. “Mr Norris also outlined that a further hearing should be scheduled for 7 October to consider any challenges from Mr Best to the Panel’s appointment and composition. The BHA has acted appropriately by asking the Disciplinary Panel to rule on any issues related to the timing of the rehearing. We have always said that our objective throughout has been to ensure a fair process is followed.”

A challenge to the composition of the proposed make-up of the Disciplinary Panel appears likely, as Best’s legal team have already expressed concerns about the involvement of William Norris QC. He sits alongside Matthew Lohn as a member of the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP), which is managed by Sport Resolutions, a body engaged by the BHA to suggest suitable legal Chairs in disciplinary cases, such as Best’s. The BHA and Sport Resolutions have rejected arguments from Best’s team that his appointment represents another conflict of interest. Best’s four-year ban was initially quashed on appeal after his team were successful in arguing that Matthew Lohn had undertaken paid work for the BHA over the previous years, and so could not be considered to be impartial.

The 21 November date will also give both parties time to consider the findings of Christopher Quinlan QC, who has been appointed by the BHA to review of the structure, composition and operation of the BHA’s Disciplinary Panel, Appeal Board and Licensing Committee.The BHA has also faced criticism from Best’s team for appointing Quinlan to conduct the review, as he also sits alongside Matthew Lohn and William Norris QC on the NADP, managed by Sport Resolutions.

Due to Lohn’s apparent conflict of interest, the BHA has commissioned Ian Mill QC to review all cases on which Lohn sat as a panel member since October 2013. Lohn has been involved in 15 cases since then, four of which are specific integrity cases. Over the last ten years, cases in which Lohn has been involved in involve 31 people, all of which have had the BHA’s case against them proven. The BHA has written to some of these people, telling them that if they have already exercised their right of appeal through the BHA disciplinary process, their only option of appeal would be through the High Court, or through arbitration funded by the BHA.

The delay in hearing the Best case results in an unusual situation for Irish trainer Paul Gilligan. In May, Gilligan asked for a BHA decision to ban him for six months to be put on hold until after the Best case was heard, due to concerns about Lohn’s conflict of interest impacting his case. Had he accepted the ban, he would return to racing on 28 October, before the Best appeal is heard.

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