Chair-throwing, slurping and burping: groom banned for bad behaviour
A stable groom in Australia had his licence suspended for three months on Wednesday on three charges relating to misconduct and offensive behaviour towards Racing Victoria stewards.
Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board chairman Judge John Bowman said the three-man board found David Fisher guilty of two charges after he was "very offensive" with language in a text and in a telephone call in February that were "sexual" towards Racing Victoria steward Wade Hadley.
Fisher was also found guilty of insulting behaviour towards another Racing Victoria steward, James Hitchcock, when he was interviewed by stewards at the Warrnambool races in May.
The board suspended Fisher for three months on each of the first two charges and for one month on the third but ordered the terms be served concurrently.
Stewards had earlier called for the board to impose cumulative sanctions for each charge as "such behaviour should be denounced and it made clear it has no place in the industry".
The board heard that Fisher came to the stewards' notice on February 6 when the Flemington track manager reported that Fisher had illegally taken off his helmet while riding a horse into the tunnel after trackwork.
Hadley then contacted Fisher by email over the incident later that day and was met with a reply email that Hadley said offended him.
After a phone call from Fisher a few hours later, Hadley said he was "initially in shock" at the contents of Fisher's email and phone call, which he termed as "disgraceful and disrespectful" and which was delivered in "an almost intimidatory manner".
Hitchcock told the panel he had experienced trouble in tracking down Fisher but that stewards finally interviewed him some months later over the Warrnambool May Carnival when he was noticed strapping a horse.
Hitchcock said Fisher refused to answer basic questions regarding his telephone number and address and then was rude and insulting in his manner as he loudly ate a bucket of hot chips.
He then played the audio of that interview to the board, where Fisher could be heard burping and chewing loudly.
"In all my experience, I have never experienced burping and slurping in the manner you did – ever," Hitchcock said to Fisher at Wednesday's hearing.
Fisher told the board that while his eating habits might not be perfect, he queried whether such poor personal habits should constitute the charge he faced.
But Hitchcock said Fisher also showed disrespect to the stewards during that interview as he "threw his chair" at the desk upon leaving the room.
Hitchcock also told the board that Fisher's manner in the stewards' room that day, when he was the only steward present in the room, made him feel threatened.
"I didn't know physically or verbally what may have occurred," Hitchcock said.
When asked by Fisher what he had done to make him feel that way, Hitchcock replied: "The way you speak. Your demeanour. Your actions."
Fisher has five previous offences against his record for misconduct or offensive behaviour when in Tasmania, including one for defamatory comments against the Tasmanian chairman of stewards.
He told the board that the text and comments to Hadley in February had been misinterpreted and denied that his behaviour at Warrnambool was designed to be rude and to intimidate stewards.
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