BHA under fire after dropping Harley charge

Martin Harley: no charge to answer

PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) BHA under fire after dropping Harley charge
By David Baxter 12:46PM 3 DEC 2016

MARTIN HARLEY will not face a disciplinary hearing over his ride aboard Rebel Lightning at Chelmsford last month after the BHA dropped the charges having previously overlooked crucial evidence.

Although no inquiry was held by the raceday stewards, Harley was subsequently facing a charge of failing to take all reasonable measures to ensure his horse was run on his merits, as his ride was raised as a potential breach by the BHA's internal post-race review processes.

Harley finished fifth of 13 in a 7f handicap on Richard Spencer's three-year-old, beaten six lengths when not enjoying a clear run, information he relayed to the clerk of the scales.

He also reported that Rebel Lightning took a wrong step coming off the bend, so gave him time to recover. This information was not recorded, but when subsequently presented with both pieces of information the BHA's disciplinary officer decided Harley had no case to answer.

'Very disappointed and angry'

PJA chief Paul Struthers expressed frustration on Harley's behalf in a statement. He said: "Whilst we are obviously pleased that the charges have been withdrawn, Martin remains very disappointed and angry that they were issued in the first place.

"Martin is very upset about having his name dragged through the mud."

Struthers queried why the BHA had not liaised with their raceday staff, and added: "It is very frustrating that the BHA did not see the switching of leads when reviewing the race on a big screen in HD. It is equally frustrating that they did not speak to their employees on duty at Chelmsford that night to ask them why they had not held an enquiry themselves.

"Those two factors would have ensured Martin would have successfully defended the charge because he hadn't broken any rules of racing."

The whole affair should have been avoided, Struthers said."There is no excuse for getting it wrong, when doing so could cause significant damage to someone's career.

"It is to the BHA's credit that they have quickly acknowledged they were wrong to issue charges, have withdrawn them and issued a qualified apology to Martin, but it was all so avoidable in the first place."

BHA statement

Incidents of charges being brought against individuals via the internal post-race review processes could happen again, BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said.

"Reviewing races after the day is an important part of the BHA's regulatory function. It is an area that we are looking to become more active in as we strive to do more to protect the sport's integrity."

Mounsey maintained the process had been handled correctly, and added: "On the basis of the ride itself and the evidence considered by the team at head office we remain of the view that it was correct to take a further look at this ride, and the charges that ensued were based on this evidence.

"However, it later became clear that there were two elements of the rider's report to BHA officials on the day. One element had not been recorded. Had this information been known we would not have pressed charges, and once the full details were established, the BHA immediately took the decision not to proceed with the charge against Martin Harley.

"We apologise to Martin that the charges were brought in this manner."

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