Racing libel case: QCs for both plaintiffs and defendants make their summing up speeches.

`Sordid, squalid, seedy, stains like the Swaffham must be scrubbed clean' QC for The Sporting Life
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The Independent Online
THE SWAFFHAM Handicap at Newmarket in 1995 was yesterday described as a "sordid, squalid and seedy stain" on racing's integrity, as counsel made their closing addresses to the jury in the libel action brought by Jack Ramsden, his wife Lynda and Kieren Fallon, the champion jockey, against The Sporting Life newspaper.

The description formed part of the final rhetorical flourish of Richard Hartley QC, representing The Sporting Life. He insisted that Fallon had deliberately "pulled" Top Cees, the favourite, in the Swaffham, on the orders of Jack Ramsden, and that The Life had thus been justified in describing the Ramsdens as "cheats" following Top Cees' easy success in the Chester Cup three weeks later.

Hartley said the evidence given by Derek Thompson, a presenter with Channel 4 Racing, was "crucial". Thompson testified that Fallon had admitted to him, during a conversation in the Old Plough Inn near Newmarket a few hours after the Swaffham, that he had pulled Top Cees because Jack Ramsden had ordered him to.

"The idea that Mr Thompson came here willingly to lie to you is grotesque," Hartley told the jury. "He did not want to come. It may be suggested that he came here to save his career, but the very opposite is the truth. Mr Thompson came to the court in the certain knowledge that his evidence would harm his career. Mr Fallon admitted being in the inn and talking to Mr Thompson. We suggest that ,after at least three vodka and tonics, his tongue was loosened and he told the truth."

It was, Hartley said, a case of "Mr Fallon's word against Mr Thompson's". But could they, he asked, believe the jockey, who "agreed he has an appalling record at the Jockey Club," and had "admitted that he lied to the Jockey Club over his failure to turn up for a previous hearing." Why, he asked, had Milmo been so "desperate to discredit Mr Thompson with endless questions about his tipping line? Because he knows this evidence is the key which unlocks the door to what really happened in the paddock at Newmarket."

Hartley said the conviction of Tom Clarke, The Sporting Life's editor, that the article was true "shone through his evidence". Further, he said, "you may ask whether anyone on the plaintiff's side expressed any real affection for the sport. Mr Ramsden clearly sees it merely as a betting medium."

The Ramsdens, he said, had "told so many lies and half-truths, and contradicted themselves so many times, that you may think Walter Scott had them in mind when he wrote: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to deceive." Hartley concluded by saying that "people love racing for all sorts of reasons, and they all want it to prosper, but it can only do so if its integrity stays intact and if sordid, squalid and seedy stains like the Swaffham are scrubbed clean."