Police to hand trial evidence to Turf rulers

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The Independent Online

The BBC investigation that last night promised to expose "Racing's Dirty Secrets" did not merely conclude that the regulators of the British sport were essentially beyond criticism. It even offered them a tangible windfall.

After months of prowling round the margins of the sport, Panorama made a voyage through storms already weathered by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). Most of the hour-long documentary was devoted to the race-fixing trial at the Old Bailey, which collapsed in December.

Ever since, the BHA has been trying to determine whether or not any licensed individuals involved in the trial had been guilty of any breaches of its own rules. Some additional evidence was meanwhile provided to Panorama by the City of London Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The BHA claims that the CPS had repeatedly declined requests for access from the BHA. Remarkably, however, both the police and CPS contacted the BHA on the eve of the broadcast, to promise that the relevant material will now be made available.

Nic Coward, the BHA chief executive, said last night: "We have been frustrated and disappointed by the refusal to make available all the evidence from the trial. During the seven months since we have written to the Crown Prosecution Service on 17 different occasions attempting to obtain material disclosed in open court, some of which was apparently handed to Panorama.

"The City of London Police investigation was started as a result of information we provided. As our non-executive director, Ben Gunn, told Panorama, following requests by both the police and the CPS, we 'stayed' our own investigations and consideration of disciplinary measures. This was in response to their judgement that to have progressed would have risked prejudicing criminal proceedings.

"Because we have been denied access to all the evidence, we have been unable to conclude our review of matters raised by the trial and discharge our duty as horseracing's regulator. We now intend to proceed with this as a matter of urgency."

The defendants in the trial, who were all exonerated by the judge, included three jockeys: Fergal Lynch, Darren Williams, and the six-times champion, Kieren Fallon, who is serving an 18-month suspension after failing a drugs test in France last year.

The BHA is still investigating the jockeys' standing after the case and was unable to comment further. "As the regulator our over-riding concern is to protect the integrity of racing and to do so fairly," Coward said. "We do not disclose information about current investigations and we are unable to discuss detail of individual cases under legal review as to do so might prejudice any future proceedings."

The documentary introduced a fresh perspective on the trial only in the enhancement of an audio probe of a conversation between Lynch and Miles Rodgers, the man accused of orchestrating a conspiracy.

Coward added: "As Panorama acknowledged, the sport has made major decisions to address the threats we face and we are determined to protect the betting public and the integrity of racing. The matters highlighted in the programme had already come to the attention of our Integrity Services team."

Gunn observed: "It is important to remember that the allegations contained in the programme relate to events several years ago. Since that time much has changed, as Panorama has recognised.

"We are now better equipped to protect the integrity of British horseracing to a level those involved in the sport and the betting public have a right to expect. This is as a consequence of changes in recent years, including more rigorous Rules of Racing, tougher penalties and a more effective integrity function, with increased investigative powers and experts.

"These improvements have resulted in disciplinary action against 12 jockeys, two trainers and a number of non-licensed individuals for serious breaches of the Rules."

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