Non Raceday Inquiry – Decision dated 20 December 2021 – Calum Weir

ID: RIB6579

Respondent(s):
Calum Weir - Trainer

Applicant:
Racing Integrity Board

Adjudicators:
Mr J R Rapley QC (Chair) and Mr D Anderson

Persons Present:
C J Weir, D M Jackson (for the RIB), A J Davis (for Defendant Weir)

Information Number:
A15806

Decision Type:
Adjudicative Decision

Charge:
Misconduct

Rule(s):
62.1.o

Plea:
Admitted

Code:
Greyhound

Race Date:
29/07/2021

Race Club:
Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club

Race Location:
Addington Raceway - 75 Jack Hinton Drive, Addington, Christchurch, 8024

Hearing Date:
22/11/2021

Hearing Location:
Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Trainer Calum Weir is fined $1,120 and ordered to pay costs of $3,191.80. Mr Weir is to complete an anger management and grief counselling course within 6 months

Introduction
[1] Calum John Weir appeared before the Adjudicative Committee (‘the Committee) on 22 November 2021 and pleaded guilty to the charge of misconduct by using improper and abusive language (Rule 62.1(0) Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing) (“the Rules”). Submissions were presented by Mr Jackson on behalf of the RIB and Mr Davis for Mr Weir. Mr Weir was present.

[2] An agreed Summary of Facts was presented to the Committee, and we were invited to view CCTV footage of the incident. We have done so. After hearing submissions, the Committee adjourned to consider the matter.

[3] The charge arose out of an incident that occurred on 29 July 2021 at Addington Raceway.

Facts of the Offending
[4] In brief the facts are that Mr Calum John Weir was at all relevant times, a licensed public trainer under the Rules. Mr Weir has been involved in the greyhound industry for many years.

[5] On 29 July 2021, the victim and a colleague were at Addington Raceway to collect a retired greyhound. The pair were just outside the main entrance to the kennel block. Mr Weir was upset by the victim’s colleague’s presence. Mr Weir approached the victim’s colleague and told them to leave the raceway as they were unlicensed.

[6] The victim told Mr Weir that officials were calling him for his race. This caused Mr Weir to react. He stepped towards the victim with his hand raised as if to shoo her away. Mr Weir shouted profanities at the victim, asking who she was. A steward spoke to the victim and her colleague and moved them to another area.

[7] Shortly thereafter Mr Weir returned with his dog and walked past the steward, the victim, and her colleague. The victim was frightened of Mr Weir. She tried to remove herself from the area. As Mr Weir walked past the steward and the victim’s colleague, he told them they were unlicensed and shouldn’t be in the area. Mr Weir then walked past the victim. Mr Weir stood over the victim again asking asked who she was and called her a name. Mr Weir was rude and swore at the victim. One of the obscenities was a demeaning gendered insult calculated to cause distress. The victim was very upset. The steward intervened and escorted Mr Weir away to another area.

Sentencing
[8] We now turn to sentence. There are three steps in the sentencing exercise. Firstly, we will identify the starting point for sentence for this type of offending. This involves identifying the aggravating and mitigating features of the offending and comparing it to other similar cases, analysing the sentences that have been imposed for those similar cases. We then adjust that starting point up or down to take into account Mr Weir’s personal circumstances. Finally, we apply a discount for his guilty plea.

[9] In doing so, the Committee has regard to the purposes and principles of sentencing. Mr Weir must be held accountable for the harm he has caused, and his conduct must be denounced. This means, in the racing context, a penalty must be imposed that not only deters Mr Weir but others from committing similar offences. Any penalty must be consistent with the sentence imposed for similar offending in other cases.

[10] Any sentence imposed also needs to take into account the rehabilitative needs of the offender and finally, the sentence imposed must be the least restrictive outcome on Mr Weir that is appropriate in all the circumstances.

Starting Point
[11] The RIB Guidelines on penalty (2015) for Harness Racing and Thoroughbred Racing both list the starting point for the serious racing offence of using offensive, insulting or abusive language to an official as a $1,500.00 fine (Rule 1001(1)(b)(i) and 801(1)(s)(ii) respectively). There is no equivalent starting point guideline listed for greyhound racing.

[12] In RIU v Scott (2021), a fine of $850.00 plus costs of $353.75 was imposed where there was abusive language directed towards a steward. In RIU v Grant (2021), a fine of $1,250.00 was imposed where abusive language was directed at a swabbing official. In RIU v Waratini (2018) a $750.00 fine was imposed for abusive language directed towards a steward. That same year, in RIU v Kettlewell (2018) a $250.00 fine was imposed for abusive language being directed towards a steward.

[13] In RIU v C Steel (2020), a six month suspension was imposed for threatening a steward. In RIU v Goode (2017) a four month suspension was imposed for abusing and threatening a steward. Again, more serious than this case because there were threats.

[14] The complainant was not an official, but rather employed by Greyhound Racing New Zealand as a contractor. Nevertheless, the fines imposed set out the levels of sentence expected for misconduct through improper conduct by using abusive or offensive language.

[15] Each case is fact specific. This requires, not only an assessment of penalties imposed in other similar cases but importantly, an analysis of the aggravating and mitigating features of this offending. Mr Weir used profanity and “stood over the victim’. One of the insulting words was directed at the victim because she is a woman, calling her a ‘slut’. The victim was frightened by Mr Weir. No-one should be made to feel that way. Mr Weir’s language was offensive, uncalled for and caused the victim distress and emotional harm.

[16] Mr Weir, as a license holder, is expected to maintain high standards. His actions affect the wider greyhound racing industry given his comments were made at Addington on a race day.

[17] It is accepted as a mitigating feature of the offending that the interaction was brief and spontaneous. It is also accepted the comments were said in the heat of the moment as an unacceptable reaction to two people accidentally being in the wrong area of the racecourse.

[18] Whilst by no means excusing such behaviour it means the offending was therefore not premeditated.

[19] The Committee is therefore of the view that the starting point would be a fine of $1,200.00.

Personal Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
[20] We now turn to consider what adjustments should be made, if any, to reflect Mr Weir’s personal circumstances. This step incorporates all aggravating and mitigating factors personal to Mr Weir.

[21] Mr Weir has a history of breaching the Rules and committing similar offences. In 2014, he sent an email containing offensive language to a Greyhound Racing New Zealand official and was fined $200.00. Three years later, in 2017, Mr Weir used improper and insulting, offensive language towards a steward. He was fined $500.00. In 2018, there was a misconduct charge where Mr Weir damaged a wall at Addington Raceway. On that occasion he was fined $800.00.

[22] This history warrants an uplift in penalty. This is because there is a worrying pattern of conduct-related breaches.

[23] Counsel for the RIB submitted that this pattern of conduct-related breaches was such that a period of suspension and/or disqualification could be imposed by the Committee. Mr Davis, for Mr Weir, acknowledged that such a sentence could well be imposed. However, the Committee was told that Mr Weir had reached a point in his life where he now acknowledged and accepted that he had a problem controlling his anger. It seems that Mr Weir’s anger problem arose from a personal family tragedy. Mr Weir had never properly addressed the problem or obtained counselling to deal with his grief and the consequent anger issues that arose from it.

[24] Mr Weir has engaged with a counsellor. This is the first time he has done so. Mr Weir has been a licensed public trainer for 15 years. Mr Weir clearly enjoys and is passionate about the sport of greyhound racing. He provided to the Committee, a copy of a letter of apology he had written to the victim.

[25] The fact that Mr Weir has taken steps to address the issue is an important aspect when it comes to imposing a penalty. But for taking those steps, the Committee would have imposed a sentence suspending his licence for six months.

[26] The starting point a sentencing suspending Mr Weir’s licence for eight months and a fine of $1,200 is increased because of his previous similar offending by $120 to make a fine of $1,320.

[27] The Committee must also consider and acknowledge the fact that Mr Weir has pleaded guilty to the charge, albeit not long before the scheduled defended hearing. The change of plea demonstrates an acceptance of wrongdoing and is an expression of remorse. A reduction of 15% for his plea reduces the suspension to six months and fine to $1,120.

[28] By a narrow margin, the Committee has decided to step back from suspending Mr Weir. Mr Weir appears to have arrived at a crossroad in his life where he is now showing some insight into his behaviour and the reasons for it. He wants an opportunity to deal with his issues so that they do not happen again. The Committee will give him that opportunity.

[29] The Committee considered adjourning the sentencing to allow Mr Weir time to complete his counselling course. It was felt however, that it is in everyone’s best interests that a penalty be imposed now. However, this is done with an expectation that Mr Weir will provide a letter from Salvation Army Racecourse Chaplain, Mr McKerrow, and any other counsellors, confirming that Mr Weir has indeed followed through on his promise to complete the anger management and grief counselling course. This must be provided within 6 months from the date of publication of this decision (‘the date of default’).

[30] If Mr Weir does not provide confirmation that he has undertaken and completed these courses as promised, then his trainer’s licence will be suspended for six months from the date of default.

Sentence
[31] On the charge of misconduct, by using improper and abusive language, Mr Weir is fined $1,120.

[32] Mr Weir is ordered to pay costs of $3,191.80 (being RIB’s legal costs for the sum of $3,155 and costs of $36.80 for transcription of Mr Weir’s interview).

[33] Mr Weir is ordered to provide the RIB with documentation from the Salvation Army Chaplain, Mr McKerrow, or any other counsellor, confirming Mr Weir has undertaken a course in anger management and/or grief counselling.

Decision Date: 20/12/2021

Publish Date: 22/12/2021