Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Turf Club release detailed decisions in O'Connell/Martin Appeals

Eddie O’Connell (Rider) / Robert Martin (Owner) Appeals

Downpatrick 21st September 2011

The Appeals Body (Division One), Joseph Finnegan (in the chair), P.J.A. O’Connor and N.B. Wachman met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on 10th, 16th and 24th July 2014 to consider the appeals of Eddie O’Connell, rider, and Robert Martin, owner, against the decisions of the Referrals Committee on 19th May 2014, when both were found in breach of a number of rules as listed below:

i) Eddie O’Connell

Rule 273(vi) by agreeing with Mr Martin on the day of the race to ensure by his riding that Yachvili would not run on its merits or obtain the best possible place in the race, in order to ensure that a lay bet placed against it by an acquaintance of Mr Martin would be successful, thereby conspiring to prevent Yachvili from running to its maximum ability.

Rule 273(viii) by thereby engaging in a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Ireland,

Rule 212(a)(1) by actually failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race in question to ensure that Yachvili was given a full opportunity to win or obtain the best possible place.

ii) Robert Martin

Rule 273(vi) by agreeing with Mr O’Connell on the day of the race to ensure that Yachvili would be ridden in such a way that it would not run on its merits or obtain the best possible place in the race, in order to ensure that a lay bet placed against it by an acquaintance of Mr Martin would be successful, thereby conspiring to prevent Yachvili from running to its maximum ability,

Rule 273(viii) by thereby engaging in a corrupt or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Ireland.

As a result Eddie Connell was disqualified from holding a license for a period of 4 years and ordered to pay a contribution of €10,000 towards Turf Club costs. Robert Martin, meanwhile, was disqualified for a period of 10 years and ordered to pay a contribution of €10,000 towards Turf Club costs.

The grounds of appeal lodged by Eddie O’Connell were that the Referrals Committee erred on the facts and/or in law and/or on mixed questions of facts and law as follows:

1. The Referrals Committee erred in deciding that the Turf Club was not obliged to prove the allegations set forth in the Topics for Inquiry in respect of Mr O’Connell beyond reasonable doubt;

2. The Referrals Committee erred in deciding that the Turf Club was obliged to prove the allegations set forth in the Topics for Inquiry in respect of Mr O’Connell on the balance of probabilities;

3. The Referrals Committee erred in assuming jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry in respect of a race that was held outside the jurisdiction;

4. The Referrals Committee erred in failing to have any or any adequate regard to Mr Brian Keown’s betting history;

5. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr Robert Martin imparted information to Mr Keown as to the likelihood of Yachvili finishing unplaced in the Kerry Foods European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase at Downpatrick on 21st September 2011;

6. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that either or both Mr Eddie O’Connell and Mr Lambe “must inevitably have provided” an assurance or comfort to Mr Robert Martin to the effect that Yachvili would finish unplaced in the Kerry Foods European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase at Downpatrick on 21st September 2011;

7. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that either or both Mr O’Connell and Mr James Lambe provided an assurance and/or certainty and/or comfort to Mr Robert Martin to the effect that Yachvili would finish unplaced in the Kerry Foods European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase at Downpatrick on 21st September 2011;

8. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell assured Mr Robert Martin on 21st September 2011 that a lay bet of the type subsequently placed by Ms Stanton would be likely to succeed;

9. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell assured Mr Robert Martin that Mr O’Connell would take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that a lay bet of the type subsequently placed by Ms Stanton would succeed;

10. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell took advantage of the situation presented by the incident at the first fence by subsequently failing to take all reasonable and necessary steps to attempt to put Yachvili back into the race over the remaining trip;

11. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell failed to take all reasonable and necessary steps to attempt to put Yachvili back into the race over the remaining trip;

12. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that the evidence disclosed a lack of substantial effort by Mr O’Connell;

13. The Referrals Committee erred in failing to have any or any adequate regard to the limited nature and duration of the footage of Yachvili in the said race;

14. The Referrals Committee erred in failing to have any or any adequate regard to the explanation given by Mr O’Connell in his testimony;

15. The Referrals Committee erred in disregarding the testimony of Mr O’Connell;

16. The Referrals Committee erred in finding that Mr O’Connell agreed with Mr Martin on 21st  September 2011 to ensure by his riding that Yachvili would not run on its merits to obtain the best possible place in the race, in order to ensure that a lay bet placed against it by an acquaintance of Mr Martin would be successful;

17. The Referrals Committee erred in finding that Mr O’Connell and Mr Martin conspired to prevent Yachvili from running to its maximum ability;

18. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell engaged in a corrupt and/or fraudulent practice in relation to racing in Ireland;

19. The Referrals Committee erred in finding that Mr O’Connell failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race to ensure that Yachvili was given a full opportunity to win or obtain the best possible place;

20. The Referrals Committee erred in holding that Mr O’Connell breached the alleged or any Rules of Racing;

21. The Referrals Committee erred in regarding statements made by Mr Martin and/or Mr Keown and/or Ms Stanton as probative of their contents in determining the Turf Club’s case against Mr O’Connell;

22. Further and/or in the alternative and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the Referrals Committee erred by imposing a sanction on Mr O’Connell that was disproportionate and/or unduly harsh in the circumstances, and

23. Such further and other grounds as may be advanced.

The grounds of appeal filed by Robert Martin’s solicitors on his behalf were contained in a letter dated 23rd May 2014 and an email dated 5th June 2014.  These were:

1. He totally denies the findings that he agreed with jockey Eddie O’Connell on day of race to ensure horse would be ridden such that it would not run on its merits or obtain best possible place in the race in order to ensure that a lay bet placed against it would be successful.

2. He did not have sufficient time to prepare his defence for September 2013 hearing.

3. The Committee did not have jurisdiction in the matter as the alleged act took place outside the jurisdiction of the state.

4. The Committee did not apply the correct standard of proof.

5. The inference drawn about alleged telephone call on morning of race between Robert Martin and Mr Keown is wrong.

6. He does not accept he communicated a strong view that his horse would not be placed to Mr Keown.

7. He disputes the findings of the Committee in relation to content of alleged telephone call/calls between himself and the jockey on day of race.

8. He disputes the inferences and findings drawn in connection with communication between himself and the trainer Mr Lambe.

9. The conclusions drawn by the Committee in relation to previous betting activity of Mr Keown are inaccurate.

10. He is not a member of the Turf Club and order for costs in the sum of €10,000 is unenforceable.

11. The Turf Club does not exercise a judicial function.

12. He has not entered into any agreement with the Turf Club.

13. He has an exemplary record.

14. The Committee did not have the opportunity to consider his demeanour and personality in contrast.

15. The findings/penalties of the Referrals Committee are ultra vires and contrary to natural justice.

In an email dated 5th June 2014, two additional grounds of appeal were filed namely that Robert Martin did not agree to be bound by the Rules of Racing and that he did not enter into a contract with the Turf Club.

It was agreed by all parties that the Appeals Body would deal with three preliminary legal matters relating to the appeals in advance of the substantive hearing.

As a result the Appeals Body met on 10th July 2014 to consider;

a) Whether the Appellants are entitled to a full appeal by way of rehearing on oral evidence rather than a hearing by way of review pursuant to the provisions of Section 45 of the Irish Horseracing Industry Act 1994 and the Rules of Racing;

b) Whether the charges against the Appellants require to be proved by the respondent beyond all reasonable doubt or on the balance of probabilities;

c) Whether the Referrals Committee was entitled to hear and determine charges in respect of matters which occurred outside the jurisdiction.

The Appeals Body considered a number of written submissions made by Frank Crean BL on behalf of Eddie O’Connell and Karl Finnegan BL on behalf of the Turf Club.  They also considered a number of oral submissions made by the parties.

Having considered the submissions the Appeals Body met on 16th July 2014 and delivered a ruling as follows:

a) The Appellants are entitled to a full appeal but without the entitlement of a rehearing on oral evidence.

b) The charges against the Appellants are required to be proved on the balance of probabilities only.

c) The Referrals Committee was entitled to hear and determine the charges notwithstanding that the matters in issue occurred in Northern Ireland.

A full copy of the written decision is attached and is also available on www.turfclub.ie

The second part of the appeal took place on 24th July 2014 during which the Appeals Body considered a number of submissions made by Frank Crean BL on behalf of Eddie O’Connell and Louis Weston, Barrister on behalf of the Turf Club.  They also considered written submissions which had been made in advance by both parties and on behalf of Robert Martin by McIlrath Solicitors, Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Having considered the submissions, the Appeals Body dismissed both appeals.

In the case of Eddie O’Connell they affirmed the decision of the Referrals Committee on penalty.  Therefore Eddie O’Connell is disqualified from holding a jockeys license for four years from 25th July 2014 to 24th July 2018 and he must pay a contribution of €10,000 towards Turf Club costs.

In the case of Robert Martin they also affirmed the decision on penalty.  Therefore Robert Martin is deemed a disqualified person for 10 years from 25th July 2014 to 24 July 2024.  In addition to the Referrals Committee cost order for €10,000, the Appeals Body ordered that he make a further contribution of €7,500 towards the Turf Club’s appeal costs.

Full copies of both written decisions are attached and are also available on www.turfclub.ie

The case was presented by Karl Finnegan BL (10th July) and Louis Weston, Barrister (24th July) instructed by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co Kildare.  Eddie O’Connell was represented by Frank Crean BL, instructed by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co Kildare.

Date: 12th November 2014

Editor’s Note

1. A copy of the detailed Referrals Committee decision dated 22nd May 2014 is attached


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