Appeal – Written Decision dated 11 March 2022 – James Stormont

ID: RIB7975

Respondent(s):
Racing Integrity Board

Applicant:
Mr James Stormont - Open Licensed Harness Racing Driver

Appeal Committee Member(s):
Hon J W Gendall QC (Chair), L N McCutcheon (Member)

Persons Present:
On the Papers

Information Number:
A11117

Decision Type:
Appeal

Charge:
Using the Whip with more than a wrist flicking motion

Rule(s):
869(2)

Hearing Location:
On the papers

Outcome: Appeal Dismissed

Penalty: Raceday suspension of 3 days stands

DECISION MADE BY AGREEMENT ON THE PAPERS

1.  After the running of Race 3, the TEAM TEAL WINE & CHEESE FUNDRAISER 10 MARCH MOBILE PACE, at the Waikato Bay of Plenty Harness meeting at Cambridge on 2 March 2022, an Information was presented alleging Mr Stormont, breached Rule 869(2), namely used his whip in a manner in contravention of the Regulations made by the RIB.

2.  Appeals under the Rules are by way of “rehearing”.

3.  Mr Stormont was the Driver of the horse “LIEUTENANT ARDEN”. The race films illustrated that he applied the whip to the horse about 6 times when in the home straight, with more than a wrist flicking motion. The Whip and Rein Regulations provide: “a driver may only apply, the whip in a wrist only flicking motion whilst holding a rein in each hand with the tip of the whip pointed forward in an action which does not engage the shoulders”.

4.  Mr Stormont admitted the charge.  He acknowledged his actions were in breach of the requirements and said they were due to his being frustrated with the horse which he had expected to perform better than it did.

5.  The Informant advised the Adjudicative Committee that Mr Stormont had a previous breach of this Rule in the past 6 months, namely on 5 November 2021 for which he was fined $450.  Mr Dooley submitted that the breach warranted a suspension of Mr Stormont’s licence for between 3-5 days inclusive.

6.  The Adjudicative Committee’s decision records that Mr Stormont offered no submissions as to penalty.   He is recorded as saying that if the Adjudicative Committee was going to impose a 3 day suspension he “would like the upcoming Manawatu meetings on the 15th and 17th of March to be taken into account”.  Obviously the Adjudicative Committee thought this may have meant that those days be “counted” if the suspension was to be for 3 days (that is Waikato TC on 10 March and Palmerston North on 15 and 17 March).  Mr Stormont had not driven at Palmerston North for 6 years, since 2016, and he agreed with that but said “I might take this horse down”.  He did not seek any deferment of the commencement  of any suspension.

7.  The Adjudicative Committee imposed a suspension for 3 days to commence on 5 March 2022 and to end at the conclusion of racing on 24 March 2022.  That enabled him to drive, if he wished, at Auckland on 4 March 2022.  The meetings to which the 3 days’ suspension applied were Cambridge (10 March), Auckland (18 March) and Cambridge (24 March).  The Adjudicative Committee did not regard it as appropriate to take into account the 2 days at Palmerston North, given the past history.

8.  Mr Stormont in his Notice of Appeal against the penalty, gives as his grounds “the number of days”.  We take that to mean he challenges the 3 day suspension as being excessive.

9.  The Appeals Tribunal has received a letter from a client of Mr Stormont – the Manager for Owners of a horse “HEY BARTENDER” – that it had been hoped to race this horse at Cambridge on 10 March and Palmerston North on 17 March to try to qualify for a later race at Addington.  That does not precisely square with what Mr Stormont told the Adjudicative Committee, as he said “I might take this horse  [ie LIEUTENANT ARDEN] down”.  Nevertheless, it appears from the RIB submissions to the Appeals Tribunal that after the hearing Mr Stormont advised the Stewards that he was “considering” nominating HEY BARTENDER for a race on 17 March at Manawatu.  The Stewards advised Mr Stormont that this horse was not eligible to compete as it had not been approved from a standing start.

REASONS FOR DECISION

10.  We take it that the basis of the Appeal is, as Mr Stormont said, the number of days suspended.  Otherwise, if it was argued that the 2 Manawatu days should have been included in the 3 meetings to which the suspension applied those would have been Cambridge 10 March and Palmerston North 15 and 17 March.  That is, he would not be driving there, in any event, if there was suspension for 3 days.

11.  It was entirely open to the Adjudicative Committee to ignore the Palmerston North meeting when fixing the terms of suspension

12.  So, the only issue is whether the suspension for 3 days was appropriate or excessive.  We are satisfied, by a wide margin that the penalty cannot be disturbed. If anything, Mr Stormont was fortunate it was not more.  He had infringed against the Whip Rule 4 months previously; he had because of this “frustration” with the horse, allowed this to get the better of him.  Interests of the Harness Racing profession, and the importance of strict compliance with the Whip Regulations – aimed at animal welfare concerns – as well as the need to deter other Drivers, as well as Mr Stormont, required at least 3 days suspension.  If there is to follow the inability to drive at Palmerston North (that aim being speculative at best), that is only as a consequence of Mr Stormont’s actions.

13.  The Appeal is dismissed.  The Appeal fee deposit is forfeited.

Hon J W Gendall (Chair)

L N McCutcheon (Member)

Decision Date: 11/03/2022

Publish Date: 12/03/2022