A damning phone call leads to further ban for trainer Paul Gilligan
Paul Gilligan has been banned for nine months by the BHA after the disciplinary panel heard "compelling evidence" the trainer had attempted to coach a witness during a previous hearing in December 2016.
The panel found Gilligan to have acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity of racing after he reportedly placed a number of calls to his wife with instructions for Joe McNamara, during a break for lunch in the hearing.
Gilligan declined to attend Monday's hearing, at which he was accused of attempting to interfere with evidence given by McNamara at the inquiry into the Dubawi Phantom affair. Gilligan ran Dubawi Phantom in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter in June 2014, having previously campaigned the horse in illegal flapping races in Ireland under the name of Ayres Rock.
County Galway trainer Gilligan did, however, provide a written statement denying the charge as well as phone records for himself and his wife. It is these phone records, as well as the testimony of a former BHA compliance officer Danielle Sharkey, that led the disciplinary panel to declare itself "entirely satisfied that Mr Gilligan attempted, through his wife, to interfere with the evidence that Mr McNamara was about to give".
"I've been told to tell you"
When the hearing broke for lunch, Sharkey accompanied McNamara to a secure witness room, leaving him with a copy of the Racing Post while she went to make him a cup of tea.
She returned to find McNamara taking a call on speakerphone from a woman who Sharkey recalled saying: "Listen, I’ve been told to tell you that when you are in your interview and you are asked about the weekend before . . . " There followed two words that Sharkey could not make out before the woman said: "When he rode Buddy Holly."
Sharkey said she then interrupted proceedings, informed McNamara of the serious nature of taking such a call and removed his phone.
The panel found reference to Buddy Holly, a horse whose name had come up in the cross-examining of Gilligan that morning, as a key piece of evidence that the woman on the phone had been in contact with someone present during the hearing earlier.
Calls and multimedia message made "irresistible inference"
The second key plank of evidence presented by the BHA to the disciplinary panel came in the form of the redacted itemised bills provided by Gilligan and his wife.
In a sequence that began shortly after the panel broke for lunch on December 14, 2016, Gilligan called the Clarenbridge Nursing Home.
The panel concluded: "Although there is no direct evidence as to who Mr Gilligan spoke to at the nursing home we regard the inference that it was his wife as irresistible when the chronology of the calls is examined as a whole."
Gilligan had been considering appeal
Gilligan was served with a six-month suspension for the Dubawi Phantom case. The Turf Club reciprocated the ban before imposing a separate 18-month sanction in April 2017 for the same offence but covering Dubawi Phantom's three starts in Ireland.
Gilligan is now almost halfway through serving the 18-month ban imposed by the Turf Club – and reciprocated by the BHA – and told the Racing Post last July that he was considering whether to launch an appeal against the severity of the punishment.
He said: "I've thought long and hard about my situation and the possibility of pursuing the case with the Turf Club, but I've decided not to take them on at this stage. But I do intend asking them to review the situation after Christmas and we'll just have to wait to see what happens."
Gilligan's lawyer, Michael Keane, cited financial difficulty as the reason that his client would not be attending the integrity hearing in London this week, although the BHA offered him the option of giving evidence for free via video link or WhatsApp.
Gilligan was unrepresented at the hearing, with the panel accepting that the BHA had made sufficient effort to provide Gilligan with means of joining the session remotely.
The hearing in December 2016 was a rerun of the Dubawi Phantom case after Gilligan's original six-month ban was quashed as part of the turmoil surrounding revelations that the original panel chairman Matthew Lohn had received payment from the BHA in connection with other legal work.
Read exclusive previews from 6pm daily on racingpost.com