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Danny Mullins Appeal – Bellewstown 5th July 2013

Danny Mullins Appeal – Bellewstown 5th July 2013

The Appeals Body, Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), Paul Ronan and N.B. Wachman met at the Turf Club, The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Monday 22nd July 2013 to consider the appeal of Danny Mullins, rider, against the decision of the Stewards at Bellewstown on 5th July 2013 to suspend him for 14 racedays following the running of the Anglo Printers Novice Hurdle after he was found in breach of Rule 272.   His grounds of appeal were that the finding and the penalty were extremely harsh in view of the fact that he was left holding his mount Private Treasure, who had been injured for a considerable time and that it felt like an eternity before anyone came to his assistance.

Prior to the Appeals Body considering any of the evidence, Frank Ward, Solicitor (on behalf of Danny Mullins) made a number of legal submissions with regard to how the matter was dealt with by the Stewards at Bellewstown. He said that the Stewards acted “ultra vires” as they did not have power under Rule 272 to deal with the matter as Rule 272 contained no penalty clause. He argued that as both Rules 272 and 273 came under the heading Preserving the Good Reputation of Horse Racing, the matter should have been referred to the Referrals Committee in accordance with the provisions of Rule 273 (xiii). He concluded by saying that because the Stewards acted “ultra vires” the appeal should be allowed in full.

Conal Boyce (solicitor) on behalf of the Turf Club rejected Mr. Ward’s argument. He said it was not necessary for each Rule to contain penalty provisions and that the Stewards acted fully within their powers. He referred in particular to the provisions of Rule 13 and 14 (i) (b) which gave them powers to regulate, control, take cognisance of and adjudicate upon the conduct of jockeys and to punish at their discretion any rider with a fine not exceeding €4,000 and suspend riders for up to 50 racedays. He concluded by saying that unless the likely penalties exceeded these amounts there was no obligation to refer the matter to the Referrals Committee and that Rules 272 and 273 were separate rules and the provisions in Rule 273 (xiii) do not apply to Rule 272.

The Appeals Body considered both submissions and found that the Stewards at Bellewstown were entitled to deal with the matter and impose a penalty and that there was no departure from the rules by the actions of the Stewards.

Frank Ward then made a number of submissions to the Appeals Body about the incident. He based his submissions on a letter of apology which Danny Mullins had sent to the Order of Malta subsequent to the incident. Mr. Ward said that Danny Mullins unreservedly apologized for his actions. He said that his client had a deep appreciation for the Order of Malta and their work and it was not his intention to be disrespectful in any way. Mr. Ward said that his client was left holding the horse for what seemed a long time and he panicked because he was due to ride in the next race and wanted to get back to the weigh room. He said he asked for a lift back and claimed that there were three ambulances at the scene namely two Order of Malta ambulances and a Red Cross ambulance. Mr. Ward said that his client went and sat in the back of one of the ambulances which had been left with its engine running and, when no one came along, he drove the ambulance away very carefully along a road which the public did not have any access to. When he got to the enclosure area, he carefully parked the vehicle and ran back to weigh out for the next race. He said his client now realised his actions were stupid and he very much regretted what he had done. He also said that he didn’t realise that the vehicle he took contained medical equipment. In conclusion, Mr. Ward said that his client had made a donation of €1,000 to the Order of Malta and that the Order of Malta had gratefully accepted the donation and as far as they were concerned the matter was now over.

In his submission, Conal Boyce took issue with a number of points raised by Mr. Ward. He also set out a timeline of what occurred, the majority of which was backed up by video evidence as well as independent statements from parties involved in the incident. He said that Danny Mullins was not left holding the horse for a “long time” and that he was immediately assisted by Vincent Elvers, Course Foreman at Bellewstown, when the injury occurred. He said the Vet was delayed arriving at the scene as he could not access the track because there were loose horses, but still arrived about four minutes after the injury occurred. This was probably about two minutes longer than it should have taken him. He said the evidence showed that Danny Mullins was holding the horse for about four minutes and that there was no evidence the horse was distressed. Conal Boyce said that the submission about the number of ambulances at the start was incorrect. He said he accepted that there were three vehicles, but these were the Order of Malta jeep/ambulance, the Blue Cross horse ambulance and the course foreman’s vehicle. He said that Danny Mullins arrived back in the enmclosue eight minutes after the horse was injured and by this time the horse had been euthanized.

Mr. Boyce also disputed a claim made by Mr. Ward with regard to public access to the road the ambulance was driven along. He said the video evidence clearly showed children playing on the road between races. He also said that as a result of the ambulance being taken, the Order of Malta personnel at the injured horse lost contact with their colleagues for a time as the ambulance contained much more powerful communication equipment than the standard walkie-talkies.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body found the conduct of Danny Mullins on the evening was in breach of Rule 272 in so far as he acted in a manner which, by his behaviour, was prejudicial to the proper conduct of horse racing and in particular the horse racing that was being conducted at Bellewstown on the evening in question. They described the case as a “difficult case” as the factual matters were unusual. They said that, based on the information the Stewards had on the evening, there was nothing inappropriate about the penalty imposed. They said that Danny Mullins’s conduct was extremely irresponsible and whether he realised it or not, the function of the vehicle that he took, albeit for a short period of time, was to provide medical assistance which fortunately wasn’t required. The Appeals Body also said that they accepted that the vehicle was driven in a manner which didn’t result in harm to anybody but in the context of Bellewstown, it would be difficult to say that there was no risk in view of the large number of children that attend the amusements trackside.

The Appeals Body noted that they had information before them today which the local Stewards did not have at Bellewstown and which needed to be taken into account because the information related to what took place subsequently and is to the benefit of Danny Mullins. They said it wasn’t the making of the apology or the financial contribution which were important, but the fact that they were accepted by those to whom it was directed namely the Order of Malta as it was their operations that were most affected by Danny Mullins’s actions. They said, giving as much weight as possible to the new information, the incident still warranted a penalty of the type but not the extent imposed by the Stewards. They stressed that they were differing from the local Stewards only in the context of new matters that have arisen since. As a result they decided to amend the penalty, but only to the extent that they were suspending the last four days of it for a period of 12 months.

In relation to the suspended portion of the penalty, they said that if at any time in the next 12 months from this date, Danny Mullins is found in breach of Rule 272 for any reason, this matter will be reopened by the Appeals Body and those four days will be activated together with any subsequent penalty that may be imposed by any other body for the breach of Rule 272.

The Appeals Body ordered that Danny Mullins forfeit his appeal deposit as a contribution towards Turf Club costs.

Danny Mullins’s suspension dates are July 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 29th, 30th 31st and August 1st.   

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co. Kildare.  Danny Mullins was represented by Frank Ward, Frank Ward & Co. Solicitors, Dublin 7.

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