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Mrs. Sally Roche (owner) Referral

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), John G. Moloney and J.R. Craigie met in the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on 23rd January 2012 to consider the referral of Mrs. Sally Roche, owner of Billyford, regarding whether or not she was in breach of any rule as a result of the reason given by her on the application made to Horse Racing Ireland on 26th September 2011 for a duplicate passport for that horse.  On the application she stated that the original passport had been misplaced when this was not in fact the case.  The matter had been referred to the Referrals Committee by Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club.

Evidence was heard from Vicki McWey, Supervisor – Registrations Department, Horse Racing Ireland, Paddy Berry, Manager and Director – Weatherby’s Ireland Limited and Mrs. Sally Roche. The Committee also considered correspondence received from Doncaster Bloodstock Sales (DBS) in relation to monies owing by Mrs. Roche.

In her evidence Vicki McWey outlined the background to the request for a duplicate passport. She said that Horse Racing Ireland received a letter from Mrs. Roche on 26th September 2011 requesting a duplicate passport. She said that the reason given for the request was that the original passport was “misplaced”. Mrs. McWey subsequently wrote to Weatherbys that day requesting the duplicate. As the horse was due to run at Dundalk five days later, it was agreed that Mrs. Roche or her husband would pick up the passport from Weatherbys when it was ready. In conclusion she said that the passport is not a deed of ownership and that it remains the property of the issuing authority.

In his evidence, Paddy Berry said that Weatherbys was the authorised Stud Book in Ireland.  He said they checked the record for Billyford to see if it was clear prior to issuing the duplicate passport and the file was clear.  He said there was nothing to suggest that the original passport was in existence.  The duplicate passport was collected on 30th September.

Mr. Berry said that there was no legal register of bloodstock ownership in Ireland and Weatherbys Ireland recorded reported ownership of broodmares and stallions only, for the purpose of administering the General Stud Book. Mr. Berry referred to the E.U. Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008 and the provisions contained therein. He said that the passport is a document of identity and not a deed of ownership. It is used for the purposes of identification, recording medication and vaccinations and permitting the animal to travel. He also referred to S.I. No. 357/2011 – European Communities (Equine) Regulations 2011, which had been incorporated into national law. Under this regulation and E.U. law, a duplicate passport can only be issued if the original passport is lost or destroyed.  He said that a duplicate passport cannot be issued if the original is still in existence.  Mr. Berry said that he only became aware on 14th December 2011 that DBS was holding the original passport, when he received a letter from their legal representatives.  He said that if Weatherbys Ireland had been aware the original passport was being held by a third party, they would have asked for the document to be released and in the event that it was not released, the applicant for the duplicate passport would have been referred to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as there is a legal requirement that the passport accompanies the animal at all times.  The matter would then be taken up by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In her evidence, Sally Roche confirmed that she asked for a duplicate passport. She said that she owned the horse and that matters are ongoing with regard to the discharge of the debt due to DBS in respect of the horse.  She accepted that she should have told Horse Racing Ireland that the original passport was being retained by DBS.  She said she was entitled to have it as she was caring for the horse.  Mrs. Roche said that nobody wanted to know anything about the horse when he wasn’t running. She said she didn’t intend to do anything malicious by giving the reason she gave when she was looking for the duplicate passport.  She also said that she had asked DBS on a number of occasions for the passport but that they had refused to return it.  However it was noted that this was disputed by DBS.

Having considered the evidence, the Committee noted that the passport should be with the custodian of the horse at all times.  They said that the evidence given by Paddy Berry was important and helpful in deciding this issue.  They accepted Mrs. Roche’s admission that the reason given by her when requesting the duplicate passport could have been more accurate.  However, they noted it was important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, and there was no dispute of the evidence, which was that Mrs. Roche was the custodian of Billyford for some considerable time which was important in the light of the evidence given by Paddy Berry with regard to procedures and the legal position as it pertains to passports.

They said that there may be a misapprehension amongst vendors and sales companies that retaining the passport gives additional protection in the event of a purchaser defaulting.  However, they should be aware that if they choose to part with the horse that retaining the passport may not have the legal effect they hoped for having regard to the legal provisions which make it perfectly clear that the passport is a document of identity, it is not a document of ownership and the passport is meant to travel with the horse and doesn’t signify anything other than certain health and welfare requirements are met.  Once the custody of the horse passes there is a legal obligation on whoever is passing the horse to release the passport to the custodian of the horse.  The Committee noted that there are other ways of dealing with civil disputes as to ownership and payment.  They said that a better way of dealing with such issues was not to part possession of the animal rather than relying on retaining the passport.

In conclusion, the Committee stated that Mrs. Roche was doing nothing more than applying for something to which she was entitled and whether it is possible to say that she has acted in breach of Rule 272 or 273 because of what occurred is the matter that they needed to consider.  In arriving at their decision they had to take into account that Mrs. Roche was entitled to the passport and was only exercising her legal right to obtain it, as such it is only fair that they exercise any reasonable doubt in her favour as she was the custodian of the horse and would have been entitled to a duplicate passport in circumstances where she didn’t have access to the original passport for whatever reason. Accordingly in the circumstances they found that she was not in breach of any rules.

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Wilkinson & Price Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.

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