Case timeline: trainers' contradictory evidence to allegations of a vendetta
The long-running defamation case involving Chris Gordon, the IHRB's head of security, initiated against the IRTA almost six years ago, came to a close in the High Court on Wednesday night. Here are the key dates from a gripping case that lasted eight long weeks in court.
Day 2: Wednesday, February 5
Chris Gordon claims he has been compromised in his role since October 2015 because of pressure put on the IHRB by the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association.
The court is also told that the Department of Agriculture has withdrawn its assistance with random yard inspections and expressed its disappointment over the relationship between the IHRB head of security and the IRTA.
The random stable inspection on Liz Doye's premises at Kitestown House, County Wexford, in March 2014, is the catalyst for animosity between the two parties.
Day 3: Thursday, February 6
The court learns that the raid was instigated by intelligence gathered during the high-profile case of John Hughes, a retired department vet who was found in possession of 6kg of the anabolic steroid Nitrotain at his Carlow home in 2013.
Gordon has argued that the book of evidence, which related to bank lodgement slips, provided the IHRB with reasonable cause to pursue unannounced stable investigations on the basis of names and initials of possible associates of Hughes being listed in the document.
What Gordon failed to realise upon arriving at Doyle's base on the morning of the investigation was that Denis Egan, chief executive of the IHRB, had written Liz Doyle's name, followed by a question mark, on the book of evidence alongside a payment of €200 beside the initials LD.
Gordon said: "Mr Egan wrote on the document, it wasn't me, and the orchestrated campaign that arose from that was against me – that I had done it. It wasn't against Mr Egan."
Day 5: Tuesday, February 11
Department of Agriculture inspector Louis Reardon is told that Noel Meade was referring to him in a contentious Irish Field newspaper article, published in August 2014, which forms a key part of Gordon's defamation case.
Day 7: Thursday, February 13
Gordon claims the IRTA threw Liz Doyle under a bus while orchestrating a campaign to prove he was not fit for purpose in his role as the head of security for the IHRB.
He also claimed that Michael Grassick, chief executive for the IRTA, lobbied trainers to sign a petition to have him removed from his role. That allegation was denied by the IRTA’s legal team.
Day 8: Friday, February 14
Declan Buckley, deputy head of security to Gordon, claimed that Liz Doyle was abusive towards him following on from the investigation at her yard.
After seeking an explanation as to why her stable was subject to investigation, Doyle was presented with a number of documents at Fairyhouse on April 6, 2014, including a copy of a lodgement slip that apparently linked her with disgraced former vet John Hughes. Doyle denied the validity of the document she was shown.
Day 9: Tuesday, February 18
IHRB boss Denis Egan takes to the witness box, where he described himself as shocked at allegations made by the IRTA that Gordon tried to entrap Doyle during the stable investigation.
Egan also explained how and why he came to write the name Liz Doyle on the book of evidence at a meeting with the Department of Agriculture prior to the Doyle yard inspection.
Day 10: Wednesday, February 19
Egan tells the court that Dermot Weld told him the IRTA had a "vendetta" against Gordon. He also claimed that Weld "ran" IRTA boss Michael Grassick from his yard in 2014 when he tried to convince the trainer to sign a petition to have Gordon removed from his role in the IHRB.
Day 11: Thursday, February 20
Egan rejects the suggestion made by SC John Rogers that he acted on "tittle-tattle" that had been reported to him by Weld.
Day 12: Friday, February 21
Former Horse Racing Ireland board member Michael Hickey claimed that Noel Meade made allegations to the effect that the regulator's security chief Chris Gordon was planting incriminating evidence on trainers.
It was claimed that Meade made the remarks at a meeting in 2015 in which former HRI chairman Joe Keeling also made derogatory comments about the Turf Club as it was then known as.
Day 13: Tuesday, February 25
Dermot Weld launches a scathing criticism of the IHRB and is particularly critical of Egan. Weld denies any recollection of a petition and says he cannot fully remember the conversation during which he was accused of relaying the vendetta by Egan.
Day 15: Thursday, February 27
Noel Meade claims there was never a campaign against Gordon and is adamant he was referring to Louis Reardon in the contentious Irish Field article and not Gordon.
Day 16: Friday, February 28
SC Harty, representing Gordon, accuses Meade of failing to gather all of the facts before calling on the IHRB to investigate Gordon. He also labels the suggestion that Meade was referring to just Reardon in that Irish Field article as "absurd".
Day 17: Tuesday, March 3
Liz Doyle claims that the document presented to her in her yard in March 2014 is different to the one that has been discussed throughout the case.
As well as giving contradictory evidence to Gordon, Doyle gave her version of the bust-up with Buckley at Fairyhouse shortly after the inspection.
Day 18: Wednesday, March 4
Mr Justice Bernard Barton tells the jury to disregard some of Doyle's evidence from the previous day. "I have to say to you that there was some evidence given by Miss Doyle," the judge told the jury.
"In particular, I'm quoting now from the transcript, she said to you she was 'absolutely clear' about what she was shown in the yard.
"She said she had 'ultimate clarity' and was 'one hundred percent sure about what she saw'."
He added: “She goes on, 'the stakes are so high for my reputation, for Mr Gordon's reputation, everybody's reputation. Unless I was one hundred per cent sure and had ultimate clarity on the situation, I would not be sat here today'."
Mr Justice Barton then explained that the truth of what Doyle saw on the morning her yard was inspected in March 2014 was not important for the jury to consider. What was important was what the witness's belief was at the time of the event.
He said: "Insofar as any evidence that appears to you to be directed towards establishing the truth of what they saw, that as a matter of fact they saw a document like this, you're not concerned with that. You are to disregard that. You are only concerned with their state of mind."
Mr Justice Barton added: "Evidence as to the state of mind and what they believed to be the position is what's relevant. As a matter of law that's what's relevant."
Day 19: Thursday, March 5
Doyle accuses Gordon of trying to pull off "an old fashioned Garda trick" by "beefing up evidence" before the raid on her yard. She claimed he had egg on his face after the John Hughes scandal and, in order to save face in his role, he wanted to get somebody on his watch.
Day 20: Friday, March 6
Doyle accused SC Harty of attempted character assassination during cross-examination.
The court also heard that, in Doyle's mind, the people Noel Meade referred to in the contentious Irish Field interview published in August 2014 were Gordon and Buckley.
In that interview, Meade accused inspectors of behaving in an unprofessional manner and claimed some trainers were being treated like criminals during random stable inspections.
When asked about who treated people like criminals by SC Harty, Doyle responded: "Mr Gordon."
Day 21: Tuesday, March 10
Avril Doyle, former TD and mother of Liz Doyle, told the High Court of a previously unreferenced telephone conversation she shared with Denis Egan shortly after the contentious raid.
It was in this conversation that the regulator got the idea to make changes to one of the documents presented during the raid, Doyle claimed.
It is her belief that the document presented at Fairyhouse was "concocted" and does not resemble the one presented during the stable investigation.
Day 24: Friday, March 13
Michael Grassick gives evidence of a previously unreferenced encounter with Gordon at Leopardstown races, long before the stable inspection of Liz Doyle.
It was claimed by Grassick that Gordon approached him outside the weighroom and uttered the words, "they are all corrupt," referring to jockeys and trainers.
Grassick says Gordon "had a very bad attitude for a man in his position. He had a very poor view of Irish racing."
Denis Egan returns home from Cheltenham early to reject the claims made in the court earlier in the week by Avril Doyle about the "concocted document". He says he was "flabbergasted" when looking back over the transcript. That is the final piece of evidence in the case.
Day 29: Tuesday, March 24
Closing speeches are made to the jury and the question of damages is brought up for the first time. SC Rogers tells the court that the issue of malice is "absolutely critical" to the case.
The defendants claim qualified privilege, which if exercised without malice would make them immune from any acts of alleged defamation. It is contended by SC Rogers and his legal team that at no stage did the defendants behave maliciously in defending their member.
SC Harty accuses the IRTA of wilful blindness from the beginning right through to the end of the case, and states the trainers behaved maliciously against the plaintiff.
Day 30: Wednesday, March 25
The jury delivers its verdict, finding unanimously in favour of Gordon on five of the six defamation strands that were put before them. He is awarded €300,000 in damages, plus costs.
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