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S.J. Mahon (Trainer) Referral – Inspections 13th and 15th April 2021


The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt, (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. John Powell convened at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Thursday 29th April 2021 and Monday 3rd May 2021 to consider whether or not Mr. S.J. Mahon (Trainer) was in breach of any rules following two inspections at his licensed premises at Kilcolgan, County Galway.

Evidence was heard from Ms. Nicola O’Connor, IHRB Veterinary Officer, Ms. Sarah Ross, IHRB Veterinary Officer, Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping, Mr. Arthur O’Connor, Department Of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Authorised Officer, Mr. Felim MacEoin Veterinary Surgeon, Mr. Tom Doran, Racehorse Owner, Mr. Conor Heeney, Stable Employee, Mr. Tom Quinn, Land Owner, Ms. Emma Colgan, Partner of Mr. Mahon, Mr. Declan Gill, Veterinary Surgeon, Ms. Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head Of Legal, Licensing & Compliance, Mr. Seamus Herward, Racehorse Owner and Mr. Stephen Mahon, Trainer.

Due the complexity of this particular case the Committee decided that a written decision was required which is attached to this press release.

Having considered the evidence, the Committee were satisfied that Mr. Mahon, was in breach of Rule 148(i), Rule 148(iv), Rule 149 and Rule 272(i). They ordered the withdrawal of Mr. Mahon’s current training licence and further ordered that he is suspended from holding such a licence for a period of four years until 14th April 2025 and ordered Mr. Mahon contribute €5,000 in costs.

The case was presented by Mr. Frank Crean BL, instructed by Ms Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance. Mr. Mahon was represented by Mr. John Rogers SC, and Nollaig A. Lane BL instructed by Mr. Patrick Ward of Patrick Ward & Co. Solicitors.

The written decision of the Referrals Committee is attached below.





1. At 11am on Tuesday 13 April 2021, IHRB veterinary staff (Nicola O’Connor MRCVS and Sarah Ross MRCVS) conducted an unannounced inspection of Mr Mahon’s licensed premises at Kilcolgan, County Galway. These facilities are rented by Mr Mahon from Tom Quinn, who also owns the farmland surrounding the training establishment, as well as other substantial holdings in the area. Concerns arising from this inspection led to an inspection on Thursday 15 April by four authorised officers of the Department of Agriculture, led by Arthur O’Connor MRCVS. IHRB veterinary staff were also present at this inspection.

2. Arising out these inspection the IHRB referred allegations to this Committee that Mr Mahon was in breach of rules 88(iii), 148 (i), 148(ii), 148 (iv), 149(i), 149(ii), 272(ii) and 273(xiii) of the Rules of Racing. The Committee convened to investigate these allegations matter over approximately 16 hours at a live hearing on 29 April and 3 May 2021. The Committee heard evidence from 13 witnesses over the two days. As the evidence concluded late at night on the second day, the Committee requested the parties to exchange and submit their written submissions as to the disposal of the matter. These were exchanged and submitted simultaneously to the Committee on 14 May 2021. The submissions generated further inter-party correspondence up to 19 May 2021.

3. The subject-matter of the additional correspondence can be dealt with briefly and at the outset. Objection was taken to the fact that the submissions of the IHRB contained reference to a previous rule breach by Mr Mahon several years ago. The Committee expressly left it to the parties to decide whether the issues of breach and penalty should be dealt with separately or on a “rolled-up” basis, but also understood from an exchange between counsel at lines 1866 to 1872 of the transcript that the latter course would be adopted.

4. Notwithstanding this exchange, Mr Mahon’s written submissions contain a preliminary observation by way of objection to this course of action. Even in the absence of the apparent agreement to proceed in this way, this objection is without substance. The members of the Committee are capable of assessing which evidence is relevant to which issue and deciding accordingly. The Committee conducts sporting disciplinary enquiries, not adversarial civil litigation or criminal prosecutions. Members of the Referrals Committee are typically familiar with the sport, including to some degree the licensed persons who are the subject of referrals. Such familiarity is part and parcel of the expertise and experience required for informed adjudication on racing disciplinary matters.

5. There is no parallel between the position of a licensee referred to the Committee for investigation and that of an accused charged before a criminal court. Only a lay jury is expected to have no prior knowledge of an accused. Professional judges sitting alone may have such knowledge and are not debarred from trying cases on that basis. The Committee is obliged to apply the principles of natural and constitutional justice, to act on the balance of probabilities, and to provide sufficiently reasoned conclusions to facilitate either an appeal or an application for judicial review. As set out below, the conclusions as to whether Mr Mahon is in breach of the Rules of Racing are based on the evidence relating to the events of 13 and 15 April 2021, and not to any previous matters, which become relevant only in the event of a finding of breach of rules in this referral.

6. The Committee endeavoured to hear and determine this matter on an expedited basis because the Directors of the IHRB invoked their powers under the Rules to immediately suspend Mr Mahon’s licence on 15 April 2021 pending the outcome of this referral. Having received the submissions and the associated correspondence, the members of the Committee deliberated remotely by Zoom on 21 May 2021. Given the exigencies of the situation, the length of the transcripts of evidence, and the particularly helpful summaries of evidence and arguments set out in the comprehensive submissions by both sides, it was not necessary to decide every factual issue canvassed in the course of evidence. Our conclusions on the main issues presented are as follows.
Allegations and response

7. The IHRB submits that the evidence discloses that Mr Mahon breached the following Rules of Racing:
a) 148(i) and/or 148(iv) by failing to properly supervise several horses in his care. The Committee will refer to these as Animals A to J. (The animals concerned have been anonymised as their identity is not essential to our conclusions).
b) 149(i) and 149(ii) by failing to register two staff members, Alice Tilbury and Conor Heeney, with the IHRB.
c) 272 and 273(xiii) by neglecting animals in his care.

8. Mr Mahon’s submissions did not dispute that there were failings by him but argue that these failings did not reach the point of neglect. It is submitted that Mr Mahon dealt honestly in his evidence with his failings and expressed clear remorse for these shortcomings. In the circumstances, it is suggested that the Committee should approach the matter by lifting the current suspension of Mr Mahon’s licence, subject to such terms and conditions as it might impose.


9. The evidence received by the Committee dealt with the two stable inspections and a wide range of associated issues in minute detail. We did not regard all of the evidence as relevant to the basic questions as to whether Mr Mahon was in breach of the relevant parts of rules 148, 149, 272 and/or 273, but given the obvious significance of the issues for both parties, but particularly for Mr Mahon, felt that it was desirable that there be a degree of latitude in this regard. We have approached the matter by sub-dividing the alleged breaches of rules 148, 149, 272 and 273.

Rule 148 (neglect/lack of supervision) - Animal A

10. This animal was returned in training as of 13 April 2021. Having discovered and dealt with animals B and C (referred to in more detail below), Ms O’Connor and Ms Ross found Animal A in the barn. It was standing in a stable, with a rug on and a loosely applied bandage on the left forelimb. Mr Mahon explained that Animal A had been injured whilst schooling that morning. The main issue between the parties in relation to Animal A is whether this explanation was truthful, or whether the leg injury was of less recent origin, and the animal had therefore not received timely veterinary attention appropriate to such an injury.

11. Animal A was attended by veterinary surgeon Paul Houlihan on that afternoon and again on the following day, by which time he had established that the animal had a completely subluxated fetlock joint and required immediate humane destruction. This was performed forthwith. The remains of Animal A were retained for a post-mortem examination as directed by the IHRB, which took place on 16 April 2021. This animal had been treated by Mr McEoin MRCVS for a fetlock pathology approximately four weeks previously.

12. The IHRB case as to neglect of this animal is based on the fetlock injury being older than the recent injury suggested by Mr Mahon. This allegation is based primarily on the presence of a capped hock, said to be consistent with repeatedly getting up and down with the onset of a left forelimb injury some days previously. In his evidence, Mr Mahon explained the capped hock by reference to an incident involving Animal A when it went swimming during the previous week. This explanation had not been previously canvassed in cross-examination of the IHRB vets. The neglect case is also based on Mr Houlihan’s report to Dr Lynn Hillyer (IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer) that ultrasound imaging of the left forelimb disclosed evidence of fibrin deposition to tissue changes which were more than one day old.

13. Mr Mahon’s response to the neglect allegation relies heavily on the absence of any direct testimony from Mr Houlihan, or of any direct examination of the fetlock by Ms O’Connor or Ms Ross at the time of their inspection. It also relies upon the post-mortem report of 22 April 2021 provided by Dr Ursula Fogarty of the Irish Equine Centre, diagnosing that the lesions were consistent with a relatively recent severe traumatic injury to the left fore fetlock. This animal was entered on Monday 12 April 2021 to run at Ballinrobe on 16 April, the following Friday.

14. Acceptance of neglect of Animal A over a period of days prior to 13 April necessarily involves finding Mr Mahon guilty of very serious misconduct, involving a failure to secure treatment for a catastrophically injured animal for a lengthy period of time, the deliberate concoction of a false account for the IHRB veterinary staff and presumably the misleading of the owner of Animal A as to its true condition, having entered the animal on 12 April 2021 (the previous day) to run at Ballinrobe on the Friday of that week. As Mr Mahon’s written submissions point out, although the Committee operates on the basis of the balance of probabilities, the cogency of the evidence required to reach an adverse finding is proportionate to the gravity of the allegation concerned.

15. On balance, given the lack of direct evidence on significant components of the IHRB case that the injury occurred prior to 13 April, we are unable to find as a matter of probability that the catastrophic fetlock injury occurred at a time other than that advanced by Mr Mahon in his account of this matter. There was no direct evidence from Mr Houlihan, so he could not be challenged on his findings. Some photographs from earlier than 13 April were submitted, but no witnesses were called to provide context, explanation, or to submit to cross-examination in relation to these items. Mr Mahon gave a belated explanation for the finding in question. The findings of the post-mortem report obtained by the IHRB are not precise, in that it refers to a diagnosis that the lesions were consistent with a “relatively recent” severe traumatic injury to the left fore fetlock.

16. However, even on the view of the evidence most favourable to Mr Mahon, that being that the injury was of recent origin, the Committee is nonetheless satisfied that there was a breach of rule 148(iv) in that he failed to exercise adequate supervision over Animal A while it was under his charge. This finding is based on shortcomings in the level of supervision of the animal after it sustained injury on that morning, and not on culpable misconduct, such as alleged neglect over a longer period.

17. Operating on the assumption that Animal A was injured some hours before 11am on 13 April 2021, the Committee finds that the injured animal was not adequately supervised to a level commensurate with the extent of the injury sustained by it. More timely efforts should have been made to secure immediate veterinary attention for a significant injury from an alternative veterinary surgeon in the area, in circumstances where Mr Houlihan was not available to visit until later that afternoon. We are satisfied that there were other competent veterinary practitioners in that general area of County Galway. There was no evidence of urgent efforts to secure assistance given the gravity of the injury. In addition, the injured animal should have been provided with bilateral foreleg support bandaging after sustaining such a significant injury to the left foreleg. Both Mr Mahon and Mr Heeney were sufficiently experienced and qualified to have known of and provided the requisite level of supervision for a badly injured animal. In our view, the level of supervision in the immediate aftermath of the injury fell well below that required of a licensed trainer.

Rule 148 (neglect/lack of supervision) - Animals B and C

18. These animals were also returned in training as of 13 April 2021 and were therefore on the list for inspection on that date. However, they were not available for inspection at first pass. Mr Mahon explained that he thought that these animals were at grass on Mr Quinn’s other lands at Ballinderry, without being sure of this fact. He spoke to Mr Quinn and these animals were then produced for Ms O’Connor and Ms Ross. Animal B presented with a wound on the off fore leg overlying the carpus. Mr Mahon further explained that this horse had been in training before being turned out into a field about a month previously, and that he had not seen it since then.

19. Subsequent examination of this wound by Ms Ross showed the leg to be thickened with copious discharge from the wound. There was granulation tissue, showing that the wound was not new. There were skin changes at the back of the knee, including alopecia and increased scaling. As the horse moved, discharge emanated from the wound. Based on these observations, Ms Ross was satisfied that this was a chronic and obvious injury, believed by her to have been present for weeks as opposed to days. Ms O’Connor also believed it to be of long standing and days to weeks old. The animal resented palpation of the injured leg, indicative of pain. The horse was trotted by Mr Mahon and was noted by Ms O’Connor to be lame at a trot but sound at the walk. The animal was noted to be in lean condition and both veterinarians were of the opinion that Animal B needed immediate veterinary care.

20. The Committee accepts the findings of both examining veterinarians as to the condition of Animal B on 13 April 2021. Their opinions are supported by contemporaneous photographs and were not essentially contradicted by any other expert evidence. There is no evidence of any supervision of or provision of care and attention to Animal B over the period that it suffered from the leg injury. Mr Mahon said that this animal had been turned out for a month at that stage. There was a clear and flagrant lack of supervision by Mr Mahon of Animal B while it remained in his care, resulting in the animal being deprived of treatment for a nasty and unsightly injury over a lengthy period of time.

21. A proper degree of supervision would have revealed the necessity for veterinary treatment well before this became apparent, which was only due to the requirement to produce the animal for inspection by the IHRB veterinary personnel, not to any positive action by Mr Mahon to safeguard the welfare of Animal B. Fortunately, this arose because Mr Mahon had apparently failed to return Animals A and B out of training, and the two veterinary inspectors were then obliged to call for their production. As a result, the Committee is satisfied that this animal was in pain for far longer than should have been the case if proper standards were observed.

22. Mr Mahon disputed and continues to dispute that this or any other conduct amounted to neglect. We have considered and rejected this submission insofar as Animals B and C are concerned. The term “neglect” is not defined in the Rules. The natural and ordinary meaning of “neglect” is where a person or body fails to give due care and attention to their responsibilities. Neglect may arise from carelessness or may be more deliberate. In this case, the failure to supervise Animal B led a want of timely attention to an injury of a kind that can happen to any horse turned out in a field. Animal B was and remained the responsibility of Mr Mahon, and he paid no attention or respect to the welfare of that animal over a protracted period. Neglect is the only possible inference from the presence of an untreated chronic injury. This conduct is a textbook example of careless “neglect”, within the ordinary understanding of that term. Consequently, we find breaches of both rules 148(i) and 148(iv) in relation to Animal B.

23. Ms O’Connor had no immediate concern about the condition or welfare of Animal C. However, there is no evidence that Mr Mahon supervised this animal or ascertained what needs it might have when it was turned out from the barn. He said that this animal had been turned out in late January 2021. Fortunately, this animal did not suffer the same adverse consequences from neglect of its needs or the lack of proper supervision as Animal B. Consequently, the Committee finds that Mr Mahon also in breach of both rules 148(i) and 148(iv) in relation Animal C, albeit that these breaches are not aggravated by injury and pain as in the case of Animal B. It should also be added that Animal B was returned to good health and condition when it finally received appropriate veterinary attention after the inspection of 13 April.

Rule 148 (neglect/lack of supervision) - Animals D to J

24. These allegations arose from the Department of Agriculture inspection on 15 April 2020. These animals were found in a field at the back of the stables on that morning. The field lacked grass cover and the ground was rocky, dry and hard. There was no permanent water supply. We are satisfied that the field as observed by the inspecting witnesses was unsuitable for horses. Seven animals were found in this field.

25. Animal D was the first of this group. It did not move when approached. Mr O’Connor found it to be in pain and severely lame in both front feet. Both front hooves were hot to touch, there was a pulse on one and at least one of the hooves was damaged. He was satisfied that an inflammatory process was under way. Dr Hillyer found that this animal was lame all round, especially on the right fore. All four feet were overgrown, with evidence of inflammation. The hooves were warm to the touch with increased pulses. There was significant deficit of the right medial hoof with a crack extending dorsally and laminae exposed. There was a deficit in the lateral hoof wall of the left hind, which was packed with soil and debris. The condition of the field was particularly unsuitable for an animal in this condition.

26. Mr O’Connor was satisfied that Animal E was emaciated, although in good form. He described its skin as “a bit of a mess”. This animal was subsequently treated for a bacterial skin condition. He noted that Animal F was in good condition but had a wound on its neck. He thought that this was “on the borderline” of needing treatment, but that the wound itself was not a serious issue. He was satisfied that the hooves of the horses in this field were in generally poor condition, there are cracks on several of the horses whose, many of them were overgrown and non-shod. He was satisfied that they required the attention of a farrier. He checked the animals’ medicines register and noted that no treatment had been administered to Animals D or E. Dr Hillyer noted that Animal G was in light or thin condition with matting and alopecia in both flanks. Animal H was lean and his feet were in bad condition. All of the animals in that field had overgrown hooves and required the attention of a farrier. We are satisfied that the veterinary opinions in relation to Animals D to H are borne out by contemporary photographs and recordings.

27. Accordingly, the Committee finds Mr Mahon in breach of both rules 148(i) and 148(iv) in relation Animals D to J, the group of seven animals found in the field on 15 April 2021. We are satisfied that the condition of these animals was reflective of a lack of supervision and attention to their needs, especially in the farriery department. We are also satisfied that each of these animals were neglected within the natural and ordinary meaning of that term. The lack of supervision and neglect of Animal D is exacerbated by the evidence of its owner, which established that this animal had regular trouble with its feet and required regular attention from a farrier. It should also be added that these animals were returned to good health and condition when they finally received appropriate veterinary and farriery attention after the inspection of 15 April.

28. Our findings are not affected by semantic disputes as to whether an animal was “thin” as opposed to “emaciated”. Nor are they affected by whether the animals had been moved to that field by Mr Quinn from another field on the morning of 15 April without the knowledge of Mr Mahon. Mr Mahon should have been involved in the decision to move them and should have ensured that, if they were to be moved, that they were placed in a suitable location. He was not involved because of his lack of interest or involvement in the whereabouts or welfare of animals outside the training barn. Furthermore, the condition of the animals as found on that morning, and especially of their feet, was indicative of defective care and supervision long preceding that date, consistent with the issues disclosed by the first inspection two days earlier.

29. Our findings are governed by the standards of care and supervision that are reasonably required by the privilege conferred by a licence to train horses. In the case of each of the ten individual animals described above, either to a greater or lesser extent, there was a departure from the scrupulous concern for welfare that accompanies the grant of a licence. The general condition of the animals discussed above justifies the conclusion that this training establishment was operated by Mr Mahon in a manner falling well below that standard.

Rule 149 (failure to register stable staff)

30. Ms O’Connor gave evidence that there were two staff members present on the morning of 13 April (Conor Heeney and Alice Tilbury), and that neither of these had been registered as stable employees by Mr Mahon as required by rule 149. We are satisfied that each failure to register represented a breach of this rule. Mr Mahon gave no evidence to the contrary. In those circumstances, there was no obligation on counsel for the IHRB to cross-examine him on these matters, as was submitted by Mr Mahon. It should be noted that such breaches normally attract modest fines.

Rule 272(i) - conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing.

31. Up to this point, the Committee considered the matter from the point of view of whether there were individual breaches of rules 148 and 149. The totality of these individual findings and the general situation revealed by the two stable inspections were then assessed in the context of rule 272(i). This rule protects the interests of several sections of the public in horseracing. The section of the public that participates in or takes an interest in the sport rightly expect that licensed trainers will observe the highest possible standards of care and supervision so as to ensure the welfare of all animals housed on a licensed training establishment. The broader section of the public that contributes significant funding to the sport shares these expectations, together with the expectation that such standards will be rigorously enforced.

32. Mr Mahon argues that his breaches fall outside the scope of this rule, because “it expressly provides for acts contrary to horseracing rather than the act of horse keeping and management”. The Committee does not accept the validity of this distinction. The activity of horseracing does not take place in a vacuum. The care and management of animals in a training establishment licensed specifically for the purpose of preparing animals for racing is an integral part of the sport. The Rules of Racing regulate of all aspects of horseracing, many of which are preliminary to or consequent upon participation in an actual race.

33. It is also argued that “it cannot be said that he has publicly damaged the reputation of horseracing or brought into disrepute through the mismanagement of horses out of training or a pony at his private dwelling and premises. It cannot be said therefore that Mr Mahon’s actions have caused prejudice and serious damage to the reputation and integrity of horseracing.” The Committee does not accept this argument. Acceptance of a licence to train means that the licensed premises is no longer entirely private in character. The licensed activities carried on there are subject to inspection by the regulator. A well-developed awareness of animal welfare is a basic prerequisite for holding a training licence. This applies to all animals for which a licensed trainer is responsible, not only to those not “out of training”.

34. The idea that a licensed trainer could differentiate between animals on this basis is unacceptable to the Committee. For example, Animals B and C were obviously regarded as out of training by Mr Mahon, but not returned as such. The standard of care that these animals were entitled to did not depend on their training status. It depended on the fact that they were retained by Mr Mahon at or in the environs of the licensed premises, and his responsibilities to them subsisted until they were sent to reside elsewhere. Nor does the place where mismanagement takes place determine liability under the rules. The inspections showed that Mr Mahon generally cared well for horses actually in training. That does not entitle him, or any other trainer, to apply differential treatment to animals outside that category, or outside his premises, once he is otherwise responsible for them.

35. Rule 272(i) provides that it applies “whether or not such behaviour or conduct, verbal or otherwise, is associated directly with horseracing”. This reflects the position that the privilege conferred by a training licence also carries a responsibility to behave in a manner consistent with that privilege. The conduct of a licensed trainer in relation to animal welfare generally is an important matter bearing on fitness to hold a licence. It is also manifestly conduct “associated directly with horseracing”. We are satisfied that neglect or lack of supervision of animals under the care of a licensed trainer is a matter that any reasonable member of the public would regard as reflecting on the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of the sport that licenses him or her to participate as a trainer with responsibility for the care of animals.

36. We are in no doubt that the totality of Mr Mahon’s conduct in this case fell very far short of what was required in this regard, and was such that it actually prejudiced the integrity, the proper conduct and the good reputation of horseracing. It amounted to a breach of the public trust that licensed trainers will work assiduously to ensure that their charges are maintained and presented in excellent condition. We understand and accept that the failings in this case may have been caused, or contributed to, by a long run of poor stable form and associated financial pressures. That situation was probably also evidenced by the unkempt state of the well-appointed facilities that Mr Mahon rented from Mr Quinn. Nonetheless, a failure to adhere to scrupulous standards of animal welfare, for whatever reason, will attract the operation of rules 272 and/or 273.

37. The underlying reasons for failure to adhere to standards do not justify or alter the conclusion that the nature and extent of the deficiencies in this case constituted a significant breach of rule 272(i). Neglect and lack of supervision by a licensed trainer of horses under his or her care constitutes a fundamental breach of the social contract implicit in an application for and acceptance of a licence to train and is inimical to public confidence in horseracing and in its regulation. Having found a breach of rule 272(i), we do not consider it necessary to also consider the possible application of rule 273(xiii).


38. The primary purpose of disciplinary sanctions for a licensed trainer is to ensure that no unfit person should be allowed to continue this activity. The Committee recognises that the imposition of such a sanction necessarily entails a degree of punishment, and that it must be proportionate to the gravity of the misconduct and take account of the character and personal circumstances of the trainer concerned.

39. The Committee recognises that withdrawal of Mr Mahon’s licence and/or suspension from holding a licence for a further period would be particularly serious for a man who earns his livelihood by this means. However, there is no absolute right to earn a livelihood by any particular means, or without complying with any applicable prerequisites. We also recognise that he did not dispute most of the basic facts of this matter, even if there was disagreement on collateral issues, and on the characterisation of the basic facts. Nonetheless, the basic position is that there were multiple and widespread failures to secure the welfare of animals in his charge which go to the heart of his fitness to continue to hold a training licence.

40. Our concerns in this regard are not assuaged by the proposals that Mr Mahon submitted, at the invitation of the Committee, as to how such issues might be addressed if he was permitted to hold a licence in the future. There is no novel element in those proposals which gives us confidence that the future would be different from the past. In that regard, we note with regret that this is not the first time that Mr Mahon has had difficulty in complying with basic requirements. In November 2008, the Referrals Committee suspended his licence for four months because he had breached rules 272 and 273(xiii) of the Rules of Racing, having been found guilty of “complete disregard for procedures for the ordinary running of a licensed stable”. This sanction was upheld on appeal. In 2014, the Licensing Committee had to adjourn his application for a month in order to permit regularisation of irregularities found on a stable inspection.

41. The IHRB submissions argue that a penalty of disqualification for a determinate period of between two and five years is appropriate. We accept that Mr Mahon showed remorse and that his attitude to the inspection on 15 April may have been influenced by his upset at the euthanising of Animal A on the previous day. He did make useful admissions, albeit at a late stage of the process. In that regard, we were more impressed with the evidence of Ms Colgan, who demonstrated a firmer grasp of the reality of the situation than Mr Mahon.

42. It is important to note that mitigation does not arise from the fact that the animals in the training barn were found to be in good condition. This simply points to the fact that Mr Mahon knew what was required in terms of animal husbandry but did not or could not deploy his skills in relation to animals that were not of potential economic benefit to him. An ability to look after horses to the highest standard is not a bonus feature for a licensed trainer, it is the bare minimum expected of a horseman entrusted with such permission.

43. The Committee accepts as correct the approach to sanction and penalty scale suggested by the IHRB in the circumstances of this case. Withdrawal of licence and a period of suspension is the only appropriate response to these findings, and to notify other trainers that only the highest standards of animal welfare will suffice. We cannot accede to the suggestion that Mr Mahon should be permitted to re-join the training ranks in early course, subject to further terms and conditions. We have weighed the mitigating and aggravating factors, as well as the extent to which the allegations made by the IHRB were substantiated by the evidence. We consider that we should take account of the individual breaches of rules 148 and 149 outlined above by imposing an omnibus penalty for the consequent breach of rule 272(i).

44. Consequently, in relation to the breach of rule 272(i), and taking into consideration the constituent breaches of rules 148 and 149 also identified by the Committee, we order the withdrawal of Mr Mahon’s current training licence, and further order that he is suspended from holding such a licence until 14 April 2025. In other words, we consider that a proportionate penalty falls within the upper range of the scale of penalty suggested by the IHRB, but short of the top thereof. Mr Mahon is not prevented from deriving a livelihood from the industry in some other capacity during that period, which may involve appropriate supervision by a licence holder. Should he wish to apply for a further trainer’s licence after that date, he will have to adduce satisfactory proposals to the Licensing Committee at that time.

45. The IHRB applied for payment of an amount of its costs in this matter. Having considered this application in the full context of the case, we order Mr Mahon to contribute €5000 in this respect.


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