Lynch hits back at Panorama

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The Independent Online

Having already been charged, tried and exonerated by the justice system, Fergal Lynch yesterday expressed indignation over the way a BBC documentary stoked the embers of the "race-fixing" trial that infamously collapsed in December.

One of three jockeys, and six defendants in all, to walk free after the judge found no evidence of conspiracy to defraud punters, Lynch issued a statement through his lawyers condemning a Panorama investigation on Wednesday night.

It featured an audio probe placed by police in the car of Miles Rodgers, the man cleared of orchestrating a conspiracy. The BBC enlisted the help of an acoustics expert to analyse "leakage" from Rodgers's phone, and claimed Lynch could be heard saying: "it cost me a winner, that".

Lynch's lawyers said that he "vigorously" denied any involvement in race fixing. "He strongly resents any indication in Panorama seeking to suggest otherwise," they said. "The programme was nothing other than an attempt to undermine the verdict of the Old Bailey trial, and nothing more than a sop to the authorities.

"All the 'evidence' in the programme had in fact emerged in court. The probe tapes were played before the jury... There was nothing new. There was nothing to impeach the trial verdict, and not an iota of evidence of lacklustre riding by Fergal.

"Fergal was vindicated by the court and nothing emerged from 'the court of Panorama' to impeach or even to begin to question that verdict. This should not be the basis on which to conduct a witch-hunt or make Fergal a scapegoat."

One way or another, the flow of secret information remains high on the agenda for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). But while it feels confident that any links between jockeys and corrupt outsiders are being severed, its own channels of communication, conversely, still seem to need patching up.

After the trial, which also cleared a multiple champion jockey in Kieren Fallon, the BHA set out to establish whether any of the Rules of Racing might have been breached, but was repeatedly refused access to evidence collated by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and City of London Police. Astonishingly, however, some of the material sought was instead disclosed to the producers of Panorama; and then, on the very eve of the broadcast, the CPS and police finally contacted the BHA and agreed to pass on some evidence.

Even this change of heart, barefaced as the timing was, does not appear to signal a very convincing collaboration between the institutions ostensibly achieving a brave new world in the fight against corruption. Nic Coward, the BHA chief executive, was at Goodwood yesterday to express understandable "pride" in the way Panorama had effectively endorsed its strategies. But after initially stating that he did not yet know whether the BHA lawyers had received all the evidence, he admitted that the Lynch probe – perhaps the most provocative ingredient in the documentary – was still not in their hands.

As it happens, the BBC has already undertaken to pass the probe on. But the very fact that the BHA still needs it – after 17 applications during the last seven months – hardly suggests that the regulators and police have truly established a stronger partnership after their mutual embarrassment in the Old Bailey.