Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fallon solicitor slams BHA over McKeown case

Racing Post Report by Bill Barber and David Carr as published on Friday November 7th 2008

Dean McKeown: allowed to continue riding after being warned off.

KIEREN FALLON'S solicitor on Thursday night accused the BHA of glaring inconsistencies in its handling of the cases involving the former champion jockey and Dean McKeown – the two most controversial investigations into alleged corruption in recent years.

Christopher Stewart-Moore questioned why the BHA handed its investigation into Fallon to the police but did not in McKeown's case, nor in previous cases involving other jockeys. He also questioned the BHA's decision to allow McKeown to continue to ride having been warned off and its effect on the public's perception of the sport.

The BHA had earlier admitted that it was wrong not to ban McKeown with immediate effect following his warning-off 15 days ago.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding what turned out to be McKeown's final ride at Southwell on Tuesday, the BHA has taken steps to ensure that in any similar case a rider is likely to face immediate disqualification.

According to the reasons published on Thursday for McKeown's warning-off, the BHA's disciplinary panel took the view that McKeown broke the rules “in the most fundamental way possible for a jockey”.

Last December Fallon was acquitted, along with five others, of conspiracy to defraud Betfair customers by a jury at the Old Bailey but in an email read out on At The Races Stewart-Moore said that the disciplinary panel had in effect found McKeown guilty of the same offence yet had allowed him to continue to ride, in contrast to the lengthy withdrawal of Fallon's licence.

He went on: “In the Dean McKeown case they knew that there had been a one hundred per cent success rate in getting the horses beaten . . . The rides dated back to the same period as the Kieren Fallon case and yet Dean McKeown has been happily riding around the racecourses of the UK without any hindrance from the BHA for the last four years.

“The inconsistency of the approach of the BHA is then compounded by the fact that even after he has been found guilty Dean McKeown is allowed to continue riding, without any consideration of the effect this might have on the public's confidence in the honesty of UK racing, while the panel mull over their reasons for the penalty they have imposed.

Stewart-Moore said that the BHA had consistently failed to explain why it had not passed on cases other than Fallon's to the police despite their essentials being "identical." He added that the BHA had passed on Fallon's case because the police had more powers to obtain evidence.

BHA: we were wrong to let McKeown ride Stewart-Moore said: "In other words the BHA reported the Fallon case to the police precisely because they did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute him themselves but despite this they banned him from riding pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

"McKneown, trainer Paul Blockley and the others found guilty of corruption have until 5pm on Wednesday to appeal against their punishment.

The jockey would have been allowed to ride on until then but for falling foul of the authorities again on Tuesday when he was referred to Shaftsbury Avenue after the Southwell stewards found that he had made insufficient effort on the debutant Rascal In The Mix. His licence was withdrawn and he announced his retirement from the saddle.

However the panel admitted yesterday that McKeown should not have been in that position in the first place. "If he is found to have been in breach of Rule 157 over his ride on 4th November 2008, then it is clear that he had been permitted an opportunity to abuse the rules that it was wrong to give him, " the disciplinary panel said. Even if he is eventually found not to have been in breach, then it is nevertheless the case that the interests of racing have been compromised by allowing a jockey to continue riding in circumstances which have at least raised serious questions about what he was up to at Southwell."

For the future, it is likely that a panel's decision to disqualify will come into effect immediately it is announced unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing this."

The panel has made the move in an attempt to prevent further threats to the integrity of the sport and BHA media relations manager Paul Struthers said: "I hope the public welcome the panel's acknowledgement of that."

The panel of Tim Charlton QC, Patrick Hibbert-Foy and Sandra Arkwright pulled few punches as the reasons for the penalties imposed on McKeown, trainer Paul Blockley, Clive Whiting and others found guilty of conspiracy to lay horses were revealed.

After finding McKeown guilty at the inquiry, they rejected thoughts that he might have been led astray and said: "The panel received no impression that he was led into this behaviour. He is a capable man who decided to break the rules in the most fundamental way possible for a jockey. He did this with his eyes open and without any indication that he was put under outside pressure." ENDS

Turfcall's opinion: When are the BHA personnel going to stop blaming everyone else for their many scandelous failures? When are we to see them take the appropriate steps to ensure that they do indeed take up their responsibilities within the Rules of British horseracing? To ensure a level playing field for all, not forgetting the horses needs and rights. All those who do indeed work daily at the dangerous sharp end of British horseracing.

Here the BHA, underline their total contempt as to 'RASCAL IN THE MIX' needs and welfare the responsibility for which as placed in the hands of Dean McKeown throughout this key debut run.



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