Fallon Denied License by British Regulators
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2006 12:42 PM
Posted: Friday, July 7, 2006 3:26 PM
The Horseracing Regulatory Authority decided July 7 not to allow six-time British champion jockey Kieren Fallon to ride in Great Britain effective immediately.
The action follows the charge brought July 3 by London police that Fallon, who has been based in Ireland since last year, had conspired to defraud account holders of the betting exchange, Betfair, after a long investigation into alleged race-fixing.
At the same hearing July 7, the HRA, which took over regulation of British racing from the British Jockey Club earlier this year, also decided not to grant licences to Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, two British-based jockeys who are also charged with conspiracy to defraud.
Another appeal by Fallon will be heard Wednesday, July 12, by a separate HRA panel.
The offenses in question are said to have occurred in races run between Dec. 1, 2002, and Sept. 2, 2004. All three jockeys maintain their innocence, and no trial date has yet been set, though it could be more than a year away.
Fallon's situation is different from that of Lynch and Williams in that his license to ride is issued by the Irish Turf Authority.
The licenses of Lynch and Williams come from the HRA but were immediately suspended once they were charged by London police July 3. The two applied for new licenses to be issued July 7.
Fallon, who is the retained rider of prominent owners John and Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, immediately announced he was launching an appeal with the HRA against the British ban.
The 41-year-old jockey said afterward in a statement issued by his solicitors: "I am obviously devastated by the HRA decision. I always thought that a man was innocent until proved guilty.
"I cannot understand this decision as I am confident that I have done nothing wrong, and my lawyers are confident that the case against me has no validity whatsoever. In fact, I am utterly amazed the police were able to charge me based on the evidence I have seen and the questions that they have been asking me this year.
"My livelihood is dependent upon racing and I will be appealing against this decision as it is extremely harsh and inconsistent given the HRA panel's verdict on Alan Berry published earlier this week. I am grateful for the support I have received from many trainers and owners around the world. However, unless my suspension is lifted, my career is in ruins as I cannot ask owners or trainers to support me elsewhere when I am prevented from riding in the UK."
Fallon remains confident of successfully rebutting the police charge in court. His legal representatives argued his British ban is the equivalent of being punished for a crime before he is even convicted of that crime.
Fallon is a successful international jockey who has ridden around the world, including the United States. It is not clear whether he will stop riding if his appeal against the HRA decision is unsuccessful. His lawyers are said to have described Fallon as being at the peak of his career, with only five years of his professional life as a jockey left.
An HRA appeals hearing is likely to be convened within the next two weeks, and Lynch and Williams are appealing, too.
In reaching the decision to refuse new licenses to Lynch and Williams, and not to allow Fallon to ride in Great Britain, the HRA stressed the alleged offenses are "a very serious matter in the racing context."
The HRA panel, consisting of former high court judge Sir Michael Connell; HRA director Ben Gunn, a former chief constable of Cambridgeshire; and Michael Henriques, chairman of the HRA Licensing Committee, made it clear it wasn't within their remit to decide on the guilt of the three jockeys.
"The principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty underpins our society and our criminal law," they said in a statement. "It is of special importance in a situation such as this where consideration is being given to action which would seriously prejudice the ability of these three jockeys to follow their chosen careers.
"We bear it carefully in mind, giving full weight to the powerful submissions which have been made on the point on behalf of the jockeys. Additionally, it is the case that no trial of this charge against the men will take place for at least 12 months and possibly longer, i.e., a long gap is inevitable. This is also of great significance when we consider the effect that any suspension is likely to have upon those three individuals."
The panel said the issue in question was essentially a balancing act.
"Our task is to balance the potentially conflicting interests of on the one hand the reputation and integrity of racing; and on the other hand the right of the individual to pursue his chosen career," panel members said. "Any orders which are made must be proportionate to all the circumstances, including the individual circumstances just mentioned. We must consider whether the proper objective of protecting the integrity of racing is so damaged by the allegations made against these jockey as to make it necessary to remove the ability of all or any one of them to ride in our races, even before trial."
Fallon will be banned from riding in Great Britain but can still ride in Ireland, as the Irish Turf Club has said his license there is not in jeopardy, and in other racing jurisdictions, with the panel keen to stress that the matter is related to racing in Great Britain, and it was reputation of British racing they are concerned with protecting.
The HRA panel declared: "Accordingly, if we suspend Mr. Fallon's ability to ride in this country, he will still be able to ride in Ireland, and it is not our intention to ask other international racing authorities to activate any suspension which we impose in any other countries. This is because our concern is to protect the integrity of racing in this country, and we must leave it to other authorities to take whatever action they see fit concerning their own jurisdictions.
"Nevertheless, we appreciate that an inability to ride in races in this country would be a very serious setback for Kieren Fallon. He is often put up by very distinguished yards in both high prestige and more ordinary races here; and his major retainer in Ireland often run horses here, frequently with a favorite's chance in classic or group races.
"To deprive him of the ability to ride here is highly detrimental to his interest. He will most probably lose the retainer at Coolmore after the end of the season. He is an important part of that operation, riding potential future stallions as they develop through their racing careers. He is much valued by Coolmore, but they are a commercial concern and we are told that they are only contractually committed to him until the end of this season.
"We appreciate that any suspension would cause him significant financial damage, and that a suspension will also have an adverse effect upon others including his employers and those who he supports."
The panel differentiated the decision to ban the jockeys against the decision to grant a training licence to Alan Berry, also charged by police July 3, because the charges in question were more wide-ranging than that against Berry, whose alleged offense only took place in relation to one race.
The police charges against Fallon are said to relate to 18 races, six of which he won.
In order to offset the financial difficulties the ban will cause Lynch and Williams and their families, the HRA requested that the British Horseracing Board make payments to them on a similar level as dictated by the Professional Riders' Insurance Scheme when riders are injured. No financial payment will be made to Fallon because he can still ride in Ireland and elsewhere.
John Blake, chief executive of the Jockeys' Association, which represents riders in Great Britain, said: "All three jockeys are devastated by the result. They are very taken aback and surprised."
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