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Trainer Jim Best

Appeal board decided a rehearing "is in the best interests of horseracing"

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Best to face a rehearing on non-trier charges

JIM BEST will face a second disciplinary panel inquiry on charges of instructing two horses to be stopped after an appeal board on Tuesday ordered a rehearing of the case.

The Lewes trainer had his guilty verdict and four-year disqualification quashed after the BHA accepted there was a perception of bias when he appeared before a disciplinary panel whose chairman Matthew Lohn had listed the BHA as a client of his solicitor's firm.

The appeal board, chaired by Anthony Boswood, also ruled the reasons given by the panel to support its findings did not deal "adequately or at all with crucial aspects" presented in the trainer's defence.

Boswood said the decision would allow a second inquiry before a new panel whose chairman was "a person of unquestionable independence" after the BHA agreed to pay all the costs incurred by Best for choosing "an inappropriate chairman".

"In these circumstances a rehearing is in the best interests of horseracing and the interests of the public," he concluded.

Disciplinary panel chairman paid £55,000

During a six-hour hearing in London on Tuesday, the appeal board heard that the chairman of the BHA disciplinary panel which found Best guilty at the initial inquiry had been paid £55,000 over the last two years for other work for the regulator.

The BHA was not only a client of Lohn, senior partner of law firm Fieldfisher, but the regulator had also invited Lohn's practice to tender for the contract to redraft the rules of racing.

The revelations were disclosed by Best's barrister Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who told the appeal board panel that the concession about appearance of  bias alone should be sufficient to prevent the regulator getting "a second crack" at the case.

Best was initially disqualified for four years last month for ordering conditional jockey Paul John not to ride two horses on their merits and for conduct prejudicial to horseracing.

'The problem was well known to the BHA'

Ultimately unsuccessful in convincing the board not to order a rehearing, Laidlaw said there had never been a rehearing of a BHA case before and among one of a number of factors he presented to support his argument was the regulator's behaviour.

"There has been not a word of explanation or apology for the situation which has arose," he said.

"As I see it this was not a question of the BHA getting caught out or taken unaware. The problem was well known to the BHA for probably two or three years and had been drawn to its attention 12 months before.

"So the board should think through whether that was the sort of behaviour which should permit the BHA a second chance."

He said since the information that the BHA was a client of Lohn came to light the BHA had stood apart from Lohn and asked the panel chairman to explain himself as to how the situation arose.

"The BHA was paying Mr Lohn very substantial sums over the last couple of years - £55,000," he added. "The BHA should have alerted my team to the position at the start of the hearing."

'It is clear the BHA rather lost their way'

Although Laidlaw said there was no suggestion of "actual bias" in the case, he pointed out concerns over Lohn's link to the BHA had been first raised by the Professional Jockeys Association.

But he said Rory MacNeice, a lawyer for the PJA, knew this when he also represented John at the inquiry, as well as the BHA and panel chairman, "yet nobody even thinks to draw our attention to it so it can be argued out".

He continued: "Even worse, at the time Matthew Lohn was invited to hear the case the BHA was actually offering him other work, inviting his firm to tender for a redrafting of the rules.

"It is clear the BHA rather lost their way in terms of the critical importance of the separation of functions when regulating the sport."

BHA release statement of apology

A statement from the BHA on Tuesday night read: "The BHA notes the Appeal Board’s decision to order a rehearing. It takes full responsibility and apologises for the fact that the non-disclosure of Mr Lohn’s other paid work created an appearance of bias which led to the need for a rehearing.

"While there was no suggestion of any actual bias in this case, the BHA now accepts that it was an error not to disclose details of Mr Lohn’s other paid work."

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "While the BHA’s disciplinary panels do not constitute judicial proceedings – we appoint members to disciplinary panels and we pay them to carry out their duties – our processes must not only be fair, but, particularly relevant in this case, be seen to be fair.

"As we have already committed to, we will issue a full statement once the case is closed. In the meantime we will not make any further comment that might prejudice the outcome of the rehearing."

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