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Mr. M.J. O’Connor (Rider) – Appeal

Mr. M.J. O’Connor (Rider) – Appeal

West Waterford (F) Point to Point, Lismore - 10th March 2019 and Muskerry (F) Point to Point, Dromahane - 5th May 2019


The Appeals Body (Division 1), Mr. Justice Joseph Finnegan, (in the chair), Mr. N.B Wachman and Mr. Tom McDonogh convened at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) on Thursday, 18th July 2019 to consider the Appeal of Mr. M.J. O’Connor, Rider, against the severity of the sanction imposed on him by the Referrals Committee on 1st July 2019.


On 11th June 2019, the Referrals Committee heard two referrals regarding Mr. O’Connor’s conduct at West Waterford (F) Point to Point, Lismore on 10th March 2019 and Muskerry (F) Point to Point, Dromahane, on 5th May 2019 and found Mr. O’Connor had breached Rule 272(i) in that on both occasions he acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing. Owing to the serious nature of the charges against Mr. O’Connor, the Referrals Committee adjourned the matter on 11th June.


The Referrals Committee reconvened on 1st July and imposed a two-year suspension on Mr. O’Connor’s permit to ride from 15th July 2019. It was agreed that the Referrals Committee would review the matter in 12 months on application by the Rider. The Referrals Committee asked that it be noted that in the event of Mr. O’Connor having his permit to ride restored after 12 months any further breach of Rule 272(i) within a 12-month period would reactivate the suspended portion of the sanction.


The Appeals Body heard evidence from Mr. O’Connor in relation to his Appeal.


In his evidence, Mr. O’Connor acknowledged his conduct was unacceptable and offered apologies to Mr. Bernard Smullen and Ms. Christine Kelly (IHRB officials). He also outlined the impact that such a suspension would have, not only on his riding career, but also as a trainer and the financial implications of such a sanction. Mr. O’Connor stated that it was his belief that owners send him horses to break and train knowing that it was also an advantage that he would ride the horses in their races. Mr. O’Connor also gave a detailed account of his medical history and his previous disciplinary record.


The Appeals Body noted the serious view of the offences that had been taken by the Referrals Committee and reemphasised the responsibility of all licenced parties to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner with IHRB Officials. 


Having considered the evidence, which included new evidence heard in respect of mitigation and medical history, the Appeals Body imposed a sanction of an 18 month suspension of Mr. O’Connor’s permit to ride effective immediately, July 18th 2019, but suspended the final 12 months of the sanction on condition that Mr. O’Connor complies with all relevant medical protocols and conducts himself in an appropriate manner at all times. Should Mr. O’Connor fail to comply with the requirements as stated in respect of medical protocols and/or standard of conduct within the 18 month period the suspended portion of the sanction may be activated on review.


The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance. Mr. M.J. O’Connor was represented by Susanna Walsh B.L. was instructed by Charles J O’Connor & Co Solicitors, Law Chambers Newmarket, Co. Cork.

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