Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

W.P. Mullins (Trainer), Ms. Katie Murphy (Groom) and Mr. Steve Jones (Stable Representative) Referral – Punchestown 14th November 2020

The Referrals Committee Ms. Justice Leonie Reynolds (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne, and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened via Zoom on Thursday, 19th November 2020 to consider the referral of W.P. Mullins (Trainer), Ms. Katie Murphy (Groom) and Mr. Steve Jones (Stable Representative) by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, Senior Racing Official, following the fixture at Punchestown on 14th November 2020.

 

Subsequent to the racemeeting at Punchestown on Saturday, 14th November 2020, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board were made aware that Ms. Katie Murphy and Mr. Steve Jones had been in attendance having previously represented Mr. Mullins at Aintree on Saturday, 7th November 2020 and thus not adhered to the Horse Racing Ireland Protocols for race meetings behind closed doors in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, in that they had not self-restricted for a period of two weeks before attending a racemeeting . Furthermore, to obtain a barcode necessary to enter a racemeeting, Ms. Murphy and Mr. Jones had falsely completed the Health Screening questionnaire on Friday, 13th November 2020.

 

Evidence was heard from Ms. Murphy, Mr. Jones and Mr. Mullins.

 

In her evidence, Ms. Murphy confirmed that she had travelled to Aintree with Mr. Jones and a horse trained by Mr. Mullins that ran on Saturday, 7th November 2020 and that she attended Punchestown on Saturday, 14th November 2020. Furthermore, she accepted that she did not provide correct answers to the Health Screening questionnaire on 13th November 2020 when she answered no to “Have you travelled outside of Ireland for any purpose, including UK or French Racecourses or bloodstock sales, in the last 14 days?” and by also ticking a box to “confirm that all questions have been answered honestly and truthfully” and ticking a further box to confirm that she acknowledged “that in registering for the application she was required to provide certain information to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board CLG (the “IHRB’) as part of the medical screening requirements under the Covid-19 restrictions to be processed in accordance with Section 73(vi) of the Data Protection Act 2018. She confirmed that all information provided was accurate to the best of her knowledge. She acknowledged that failure to provide the correct information may result in refusal of access to racecourse(s) and/or disciplinary action under the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules.” She stated that following her return from Aintree that she had been isolating in an accommodation on her own but had gone to work at Mr. Mullins’ yard at 4pm every evening when other members of staff had gone home so that she could look after the five horses assigned to her. Ms. Murphy added that she was not asked to go racing at Punchestown but had put her own name down on the ‘racing list’ for staff to attend the races because one of the horses she normally looks after was running. She accepted responsibility and apologised for her actions.

 

In his evidence, Mr. Jones confirmed that he had travelled to Aintree with Ms. Murphy and a horse trained by Mr. Mullins that ran on Saturday, 7th November 2020 and that he attended Punchestown on Saturday, 14th November 2020. Furthermore, he accepted he did not provide truthful answers to the Health Screening questionnaire on 13thNovember 2020 in the same manner as Ms. Murphy. Mr. Jones stated that it was his view that HGV drivers had an exemption for travelling and therefore did not have to self-restrict or isolate for 14-days and as such he presumed he was able to go racing at Punchestown on Saturday, 14th November 2020. He accepted that had he answered the questionnaire correctly he would have received clarity on this matter from Dr. Jennifer Pugh, IHRB Senior Medical Officer. He stated that, from recollection and without having his diary to hand, he thought the fixture at Aintree was his first time to travel outside of Ireland since racing resumed in June. He added that he was only required to go to Punchestown to collect horses and didn’t need to enter the racecourse but did so to get a cup of coffee while he awaited the horses he was due to transport.

 

In his evidence, Mr. Mullins outlined details of the roles carried out by Ms. Murphy and Mr. Jones, Ms. Murphy being a full-time member of staff and Mr. Jones being casual staff. He accepted that his Head Man, who organises the ‘racing list’ for staff to attend the races, must have forgotten Ms. Murphy was in Aintree and it was an oversight on their behalf. He said that Ms. Murphy had gone out of her way to make sure she didn’t put people at risk as she lived on her own and travelled to work on her own and that he didn’t see any problem arising from her returning to work after hours to carry out some duties with the horses she looks after in her barn. He added that Mr. Jones did represent him at Aintree on Saturday, 7th November but was only contacted by his office to be a driver on Saturday, 14th November and that there was no requirement for him to enter the racecourse enclosure. Mr. Mullins also outlined some of the measures which have been put in place at his yard in light of the current pandemic and added that while he does not envisage having runners overseas for quite some time, he will need to be more vigilant in future to prevent a repeat occurrence of this blunder. He concluded by stating he was sorry for the administration error and it wasn’t something he was proud of.  

 

Having considered the evidence, the Referrals Committee were satisfied that the conduct of Ms. Murphy and Mr. Jones was a breach of Rule 272(i) in that they had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing and 272(ii) as they had provided misleading information to a racing official by falsifying the Health Screening Questionnaire. They found Mr. Mullins to be in breach of Rule 272(i) in that, as the licence holder, he had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the good reputation of horseracing. They fined Ms. Murphy €200 and prohibited her from attending any racecourse in Ireland for a period of three months, fined Mr. Jones €400 and prohibited him from attending any racecourse in Ireland for a period of three months and fined Mr. Mullins €2,500 and prohibited him from attending a racecourse for a period of two weeks. The Committee expressed concern that the protocols and advice from Dr. Pugh was not being strictly adhered to. They suggested that more stringent and strict procedures and protocols need to be put in place by Mr. Mullins in his yard to ensure matters do not come back before the Referrals Committee in future in regard to any further breach of the HRI Covid-19 protocols.

 

In summary, the Chair stated that it was highly regrettable that the Referrals Committee had to convene again to deal with further breaches of the HRI Covid-19 Protocols, especially at a time when everybody is very cognisant of the Level 5 restrictions and the ongoing guidance that is provided by Dr. Pugh and her team. Without the good work of these individuals, there would be no racing and it is disheartening to see that the good work being done by Dr. Pugh and her team is undermined by a very small minority of stakeholders, which is effectively putting the future of horseracing at risk, at a time when the vast majority of stakeholders are doing their very best to ensure compliance with the protocols.

 

The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance.

 

 

Dates of Prohibition from attending Irish racecourses:

Mr. Mullins - 4th December 2020 to 18th December 2020

Ms. Murphy and Mr. Jones – 4th December 2020 to 4th March 2021

 


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