Review leads to BHA shake-up
Major changes to the British Horseracing Authority's disciplinary and regulatory functions are set to come into effect following the publication of the Quinlan Report.
Nick Rust, BHA chief executive.
Independent regulatory expert Christopher Quinlan QC's review of the BHA's current system has yielded a number of recommendations – some of which endorse the BHA's own recent Integrity Review – as to how racing's rulers can increase confidence among participants and stakeholders.
Earlier in the year non-trier charges brought by the BHA against trainer Jim Best collapsed. The Lewes-based handler, who has always denied any wrongdoing, had his four-year disqualification from the sport quashed and is scheduled to face a rehearing next month.
The creation of a new role of judicial panel chairman, encompassing responsibility for the Disciplinary Panel, Licensing Committee and Appeal Board, and the appointment, training and mentoring of members was one of the key recommendations, along with merging the Licensing Committee with the Disciplinary Panel to form a single disciplinary group under the leadership of the chairman.
Quinlan believes the size of the merged panel and committee should be increased to not less than 22, including a modest increase in legally-qualified members, under open competition, to include any suitably qualified people with sufficient knowledge of horse racing, which could include former professionals such as trainers or jockeys.
He also points to each disciplinary panel hearing being chaired by a legally-qualified member, in the interests of fairness to all parties, while also suggesting raceday stewards should be prevented from serving on the panel while they remain active on the racecourse.
Active raceday stewards will continue to serve on the appeal board and the licensing committee as that does not involve them adjudicating on the decisions of fellow stewards.
Quinlan's final recommendation was that the remit of the appeal board should be extended so that it can, in exceptional cases, offer a de novo hearing (ie. 'start afresh' with a rehearing) when considering an appeal against the decision of the disciplinary panel or the licensing committee.
Having taken these points into consideration, the BHA has announced that from October 1 Jamie Stier, the current director of raceday operations, will assume the role of chief regulatory officer, bringing together responsibility for all regulatory and integrity matters.
Stier will hold accountability for equine health and welfare, medical, disciplinary, compliance, integrity, regulation and stewarding issues and his former role will cease to exist.
A dedicated director of legal and governance, who will report to the chief executive, will be appointed and they will be accountable for all legal and governance matters except those relating to its prosecution and compliance functions.
The BHA will also be creating a new role under the chief regulatory officer – director of integrity and regulatory operations – to take day-to-day responsibility for integrating raceday and integrity operations.
By mutual agreement, Jenny Hall is to step down from her role as chief veterinary officer on December 31, 2016, with the BHA planning to appoint a director of equine health and welfare, an enhanced role which will report to the chief regulatory officer and become a member of the BHA executive team.
BHA chief executive Nick Rust believes the changes, which will ensure complete separation between its regulatory, prosecution and compliance functions and its legal governance and quasi-judicial functions, will allow full confidence in disciplinary matters.
He said: "The changes we're making mean that everyone connected with our sport will be able to have the utmost confidence in the impartiality and fairness of the BHA's disciplinary panels.
"As well as providing his own expert, independent view, Christopher Quinlan's report has given us the opportunity to address the concerns of our sport's participants and stakeholders and to improve their confidence in what we do and how we do it."
Welcoming the changes, Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said: "We would like to thank Christopher Quinlan for producing such a detailed and thorough report.
"Whilst we have never accused the disciplinary panel of, nor believed its members were, biased we believed that the perception or feeling of such bias existed for various reasons, some as expressed in Mr Quinlan's review.
"We therefore very much welcome the recommendations contained within it, designed as they are to address those and other concerns."
He added: "It is important that these recommendations, along with those outstanding from the previous Integrity Review, are implemented in full and it is to the credit of the BHA board that they have all been accepted and will be implemented within a six- to eight-month time frame, which in our view is reasonable given their scope.
"This needs to be done in a way that is collegiate and has the involvement and buy-in of relevant stakeholders.
"It is also important that this is complemented by a continued culture shift as already advocated and demonstrated by Nick Rust. Both elements are equally crucial to a fairer system that remains robust and to regaining the full confidence of participants and the public alike in the BHA's disciplinary and integrity processes."