Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Lawrence Walshe - Referrals Committee Decision

REFERRALS COMMITTEE DECISION

Lawrence Walshe (Trainer)  Random Stable Inspection 6th August 2013

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), Mrs. J.O. Onions and Con O’Mahony met at the Turf Club, the Curragh, Co. Kildare on Thursday, 22nd August 2013, to consider the referral of Lawrence Walshe, trainer by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club following a random stable inspection carried out at his Training Establishment on 6th August 2013 by Turf Club Officials, Michael O’Donoghue and Ms. Nicola O’Connor M.R.C.V.S.

During the visit they found that:

(i) three horses returned in training as being under his care were not present and should have been returned out of training; (ii) a medicines register was not available for inspection. They observed Mr. Walshe riding without wearing approved safety equipment. They also expressed concern at the answers given by Mr. Walshe to legitimate queries in respect of other horses under his care which had not been returned in training.

Evidence was heard from Michael O’Donoghue and Ms Nicola O’Connor M.R.C.V.S.

In his evidence, Michael O’Donoghue confirmed that three horses returned in training as being under the care of Lawrence Walshe namely Alluvium (GB), Grange Queen and Harrier Reef were not at his premises. He also said that a medicines register was not available for inspection and that both he and Miss O’Connor observed Lawrence Walshe riding without wearing approved safety equipment. Mr. O’ Donoghue went on to express concern about some of the answers given by Lawrence Walshe in relation to other horses under his care which had not been returned in training. He said that Mr Walshe was evasive in response to the questions asked as to the identities of the horses and that the passports of these horses were not available for inspection. As a result they noted the microchip numbers and it was possible to identify the horses subsequently through information provided by Weatherby’s.

  Mr O’Donoghue referred in particular to two of these horses which Mr Walshe could not identify, one of which Mr Walshe described as a “breaker” and another as a horse which he said had been sent to him by a client on livery. In relation to the horse described as a “breaker”, this horse was subsequently identified as “New Star” which had run in 33 races in the UK. The other horse was identified as “Jerry’s Agent” which had been in training with Lawrence Walshe previously and returned out of training by him on 9th May 2012.

In her evidence Ms. Nicola O’Connor said the fact that Mr Walshe had horses under his care without passports was worrying as trainers are under obligation to check the identity of the horses against the passport and endorse the passports by signing them.  She confirmed that it was only possible to identify two horses by their passports and that the other horses under Mr Walshe’s care were microchipped and their identities validated subsequently. She outlined to the committee the importance of passports being updated each time medicines are administered to horses particularly medicines the use of which could render horses as being not fit for human consumption.   Ms. O’Connor also examined the passports for the missing horses and a copy of the medicines register which Mr Walshe had handed in at the hearing.  In respect of the passports she noted that the vaccinations were not up-to-date in some cases and that one of the passports was not endorsed.

Andrew Coonan made a number of submissions on behalf of Lawrence Walshe.  He said that Mr Walshe accepted that three horses returned in training as being under his care were not present and should have been returned out of training, that a medicines register was not available for inspection and that Mr Walshe was riding without wearing approved safety equipment when the Turf Club officials arrived.  He said this was due to the fact that Mr Walshe had recently suffered an injury which made the wearing of safety equipment uncomfortable.

On the basis of that evidence, the Committee held that Mr. Walshe was in breach of Rules as follows:

1. Rule 148(vi) by failing to return “Alluvium”, “Grange Queen” and “Harrier Reef” out of training when they had previously left his premises.

2. Rule 148 (v)(b) by failing to wear approved safety equipment (skull cap and back protector) whilst riding horses under his care.

3. Rule 148 (iii)(b) by failing to keep a completed Medicines Register available for inspection.

The Committee were also invited by the Turf Club to consider whether the evidence led at the hearing disclosed potential breaches of Rules 272, 273 and 25(a).

The Committee found that whereas the individual breaches and mitigating circumstances outlined above might ordinarily be approached by imposing monetary or suspended penalties in respect of each, in considering Rules 272 and 273 it was entitled to take an overall view of the combined effect of the these breaches and the totality of the evidence disclosed by the inspection.  The Committee was of the view that the picture thus presented was of a training operation which fell far short of the standards ordinarily expected of applicants entrusted with a licence to train.

There were a number of areas of particular concern in this respect.  Although it is not unusual for horses not to be returned out of training as immediately as required by the Rules, in this case it appears that both “Grange Queen” and “Harrier Reef” had permanently departed from the premises for a considerable period without compliance being attended to by Mr. Walshe.  The Committee accepted that there was a valid excuse proffered in respect of “Alluvium” in that there was evidence that he had dispatched the animal to the United Kingdom on the day prior to the random inspection.

The Committee was also particularly concerned about Mr. Walshe’s inability or reluctance to provide appropriate information and details concerning the identity of animals present at the time of inspection.  There was no good reason why Mr. Walshe should not have been able to identify to the inspectors the horses subsequently confirmed by microchip reference as being “New Star” and “Jerry’s Agent”. “New Star” was an animal that had previously run in 33 races and had won 5 times in the United Kingdom.  “Jerry’s Agent” was owned by Mr. Walshe and had been returned out of training in May 2012.

This concern was compounded by the lax approach to the strict and important requirement to have passports to accompany any animals present at a training establishment.  The identity of the majority of the animals present at the time of inspection had to be established subsequently by reference to microchip details, in the absence of readily available documents of identity. 

The Committee was of the opinion that these aspects of the evidence constituted particularly unusual and unacceptable features of the inspection of a licensed training establishment, and also noted that the passports produced on the day of the hearing were still not complete in all material respects. 

The Committee was also unhappy with the situation underlying the failure to have a suitable Medicines Register available for inspection, whereby a medicine was found on the premises, the administration of which would have rendered an animal unfit to enter the human food chain.  Administration of this substance would require to be stamped in a passport. The presence of such a substance against a background of general non-compliance with passport and medicine registration requirements was a further unusual feature of this case. 

In view of current issues of general public concern relating to the presence of horsemeat in the human food chain, it is of particular importance to the proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing that licensed trainers ensure that there is strict compliance with relevant medical, passport and other regulatory requirements.

By reason of the individual breaches and particular matters listed above, the Committee found that Mr. Walshe was in breach of Rule 272, having by his conduct as disclosed by the evidence acted in a manner prejudicial to the proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing.

On the question of penalty, the Committee took account of the evidence given by Mr. Walshe and the submissions made by Mr. Coonan on this issue.  The mitigating factors that Mr. Walshe afforded of some degree of co-operation to the investigation, made of admissions at the hearing, had no previous breaches were also taken into account.  The Committee accepted in deciding on this issue that a penalty that would prevent or confine the pursuit of a chosen livelihood for a period should not be imposed unless there is no reasonable or viable alternative penalty.

On balance, the Committee was of the opinion that to impose a suspended or monetary penalty in respect of the individual breaches alone would not adequately reflect the significant overall departure from the standards that might reasonably be expected of a licensed trainer and his premises, as disclosed by the evidence presented.

In relation to the breach of Rule 272, pursuant Rule 19A(8)(iii), the Committee withdrew the licence to train which had been issued to Mr. Walshe for the period from 1/3/2013 to 28/2/2014  with effect from 23rd September 2013 and declared that he is disqualified by reason of these findings from holding such a licence for a period of 2 years from that date.

The effective date of imposition of this penalty for the purposes of Rule 256 shall be the 9th September 2013.  The Committee recommends that if Mr. Walshe lodges an appeal against finding or penalty within the time provided by this Rule, the operation of the penalty should be stayed by the Turf Club pending resolution of any such appeal.

Having regard to the finding and penalty imposed in relation to the breach of Rule 272, the Committee did not impose any distinct or separate penalties in respect of the breaches of any provision of Rule 148 listed above, on the basis that these breaches were considered as part of the adverse finding and penalty imposed relating to Rule 272.

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co. Kildare.  Lawrence Walshe was represented by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.


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