Alleged Racing Corruption Focus of British TV Show

The good name of British racing will again be challenged when BBC Television's high-profile Panorama program airs allegations of corruption involving owners, trainers, jockeys, bookmakers, and criminals.

It follows the BBC's success in high court Sept. 13 in overturning an injunction obtained by the British Jockey Club regarding the use of documents provided to the BBC by its former head of security, Roger Buffham, who has been a paid consultant of Panorama since February.

The injunction, based on a confidentiality agreement Buffham signed when he left the Jockey Club last year and received a £50,000 compensation payment, was granted May 31. Its removal allows the BBC to use some of the documents in the public interest.

Said Mr. Justice Gray: "Doing the best I can to weigh in the balance these competing considerations, I have come to the conclusion that -- in relation to those passages from the documents upon which the BBC intends to rely in its forthcoming program -- the public interest in disclosure outweighs the right of confidence of the Jockey Club.

"It appears to me that information revealing the existence, or apparent existence, of wide-scale corruption within racing is of legitimate concern to a large section of the public who either participate in racing or follow it, or who bet on the results of races. The fact that hard evidence of criminality may be lacking does not negate the legitimacy of this concern."

The judge described how Buffham retained a substantial number of documents, mostly concerning security department investigations, and disclosed to journalists information about his former department's activities.

Panorama, a long-standing weekly current affairs and investigative program, starts its new series Sept. 29, and the racing-corruption edition is due to be one of the first shown.

Stephen Scott, a producer with Panorama, said in a witness statement he "wanted to bring to the attention of the public a number of scandals and instances of corruption endemic in British horseracing during the last decade, and to ask why the Jockey Club, the regulatory body of the sport, has allowed them to occur or has responded inadequately to them."

Chief among the Jockey Club concerns has been to protect sources of information. Christopher Foster, executive director of the Jockey Club, said it has "never wished to stand in the way of the BBC making a program about criminal activity in racing and the effectiveness of the Jockey Club as regulator. However, it is also our duty to preserve the confidence of secret intelligence documents, disclosure of which might have made us less effective in carrying out our regulatory role."

Most Popular Stories