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Sean McDermott Appeal - Tramore, 13 April 2013

The Appeals Body (Division Two), Judge Tony Hunt (in the Chair), Peter Allen and Dr. Colm O’Flaherty met at the Stewards Room, Punchestown Racecourse, Co. Kildare on Saturday, 27th April 2013, to consider the appeal of Sean McDermott (rider), against the decision of the Stewards at Tramore on 13th April 2013,  where he was suspended for two race days following the running of the ‘Like Tramore Racecourse on Facebook Handicap Steeplechase’, as the Stewards found he was in breach of Rule 208 as a result of his actions in the second false start for that race.

His grounds of appeal were that he was not in breach of the rule.

Prior to evidence being heard in relation to the incident itself, Andrew Coonan made a number of submissions on the conduct of the original appeal and in particular on the role of Patrick Coveney, (steward on the day) who had given evidence to the stewards on what he had observed at the start of the race prior to absenting himself from the deliberations. In his submissions, Mr. Coonan referred to the transcript which indicated that Mr. Coveney had participated in the enquiry up to the point that the riders were charged and the decision on the day was tainted as a result. Michael O’Donoghue, (steward on the day) said that Mr. Coveney was there as a steward and gave evidence on what he saw from his race position and that he had left the room before the stewards had commenced their deliberations. He said that the wording used by the chairman Nicholas Lambert to sum up how the decision was reached could be interpreted in a number of ways but he assured the Appeals Body that Mr. Coveney did not deliberate.

Having considered the preliminary submissions, the Appeals Body ruled that Mr. Coonan was alleging that the original hearing was defective due to a steward who was a witness being present at some point during the deliberations. They stated that it was important to emphasise that the role of a steward involved observing or witnessing the course of a race and, if necessary, utilising their personal observations to contribute to the reaching of a decision in any subsequent enquiry.  It followed that a steward was entitled to put forward his or her observations in the course of a subsequent enquiry. The role of a steward was equivalent to a referee in other sports, rather than to a judge presiding over litigation.   

In this case, the chairman was had acted cautiously and fairly by treating Mr. Coveney as a witness and requesting him to withdraw from the deliberations of the stewards. In fact, Mr. Coveney was entitled to have participated in the deliberations, and any steward was entitled to express their view on relevant matters, either directly to witnesses in the course of an enquiry, or in subsequent closed deliberations. The Appeals Body felt that there was no defect in the procedures followed by the stewards.  On the contrary, the chairman had afforded more fairness than the minimum required by requesting Mr. Coveney to leave prior to the commencement of deliberations, and Mr. Coveney had also acted fairly by expressing his views in the presence of witnesses in the course of the evidence.

The Appeals Body then heard evidence from Sean McDermott, Mark Enright (rider), Ian McCarthy (rider), David Maher (Turf Club Judge) on the day, and Derek Cullen (starter).  Film of the race was also viewed.

Having considered the evidence, the Appeals Body found that Sean McDermott was in breach of Rule 208, in that he did not bring his mount back behind the marker pole when requested to do so by the starter.  In view of his record, the Appeals Body reduced the penalty to a severe caution and ordered that 50% of his appeal deposit be forfeited.

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co. Kildare.  Sean McDermott was represented by Andrew Coonan Coonan, Coonan Cawley Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.

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