Court hears that comments in contentious interview were not directed at Gordon
The Department of Agriculture's special investigations inspector Louis Reardon was told in the High Court on Tuesday that he was the target of the contentious comments made in a newspaper interview that led to Chris Gordon's defamation case against the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association.
Reardon became only the second person to be called to the witness box, six days into a case that was initiated by Gordon, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's head of security.
Reardon gave his account of various events, including the inspection of Liz Doyle’s premises in March 2014, which has been a cause of much debate between the two parties.
During Reardon's cross-examination by the IRTA’s legal team, headed by senior counsel Michael McDowell, it emerged that he – and not Gordon – was the focus of Noel Meade’s criticism in an interview with the Irish Field in August 2014.
Giving evidence last week, Gordon claimed the IHRB’s chief executive Denis Egan,wrote on the book of evidence prior to the joint investigation alongside the Department Of Agriculture on Doyle’s premises.
Reardon supplied the Turf Club with the evidence book, which included bank lodgements and payslips relating to John Hughes, a retired department vet who was found to have been possession of 6kg of the steroid Nitrotain at his Carlow home in 2013.
Alongside a payment of €200 in the book of evidence read the initials LD. The court heard last week that during a meeting with department officials, Egan had written 'Liz Doyle' followed by a question mark at a meeting before the raid.
Remembering the morning of the Doyle inspection, and how he became suspicious the book of evidence which was presented to the trainer had in fact been erroneous, Reardon said: “Just as we were making our way back to the cars, I made my comments to Mr Gordon and asked to have a look at the book.
“As I stated, I commented that I didn’t think the words 'Liz Doyle, question mark' had appeared on the original.”
Reardon claimed that, upon checking the original document when he got back to his office, he saw that 'Liz Doyle?' was not on the original.
Reardon told the court: “I rang Chris Gordon and I told him I checked the original document and that I was correct, the words 'Liz Doyle, question mark' did not appear on the original document."
In the Irish Field article on August 9, 2014, Meade was quoted as saying: "Unfortunately the behaviour of some of the inspectors when they come to the yards hasn't actually been professional.”
It was here where Reardon learned that Meade was referring to him – and not Gordon – not being professional, although the court was told that no official complaint was lodged.
“Just in case there is any doubt about it, Mr Meade's evidence will be that there was no reference to Mr Gordon,” McDowell said.
“Was it referring to myself?” Reardon then asked. “It was,” McDowell said. Reardon added: “I wish he had made that clear. It's certainly not clear from that article.”
Asked if he felt the article was defamatory when he read it, Reardon said: “I had suspicions. I was on to the head of personnel in the department. I wanted a sort of rebuttal put into the Irish Field.
“I'm aware that Minister Simon Coveney was interviewed by the Irish Field, or maybe he made a statement, I can't quite recall, but he made no apologies about these inspections and he spoke about the importance of maintaining the integrity of Irish racing.”
The case, which is being heard by Mr Justice Bernard Barton, in which costs are estimated to be more than €500,000 at this stage, continues in the High Court on Wednesday morning at 11am.
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