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Talking Horses: jockeys’ body calls for Dunne proceedings to be dropped

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

The Professional Jockeys’ Association has called on the British Horseracing Authority to abandon its disciplinary proceedings against the jockey Robbie Dunne, after the Sunday Times released a second set of leaked details from the BHA’s investigation of a complaint of bullying and intimidation against Dunne by his weighing-room colleague, Bryony Frost.

The latest edition of the newspaper drew on statements to a BHA investigator by several current and former female National Hunt jockeys including Hannah Welch, who rode as an amateur until June 2020.

Welch is quoted as suggesting that she “was not treated with respect as a jockey” by some members of the weighing room. She also relates details of an incident involving Dunne after a race at Chepstow in October 2018, when Welch claims the rider “was squaring and mouthing off at me” and “swore at me multiple times … in front of the entire weighing room”.

Related: Former jockey alleges that weighing-room abuse drove him from racing

She added: “I was crying and did not say anything back. When I look back on this, I find it bizarre that none of the other jockeys intervened and said to Mr Dunne he had gone far enough.”

Dunne, according to the Sunday Times account, subsequently told the BHA’s investigator that he “did not recognise the incident described by Welch”.

Four current female riders – Lilly Pinchin, Gina Andrews, Page Fuller and Millie Wonnacott – reportedly told the investigator that they had not witnessed any bullying behaviour by Dunne.

The latest disclosures from a 120-page report into Frost’s complaint followed revelations in the same paper eight days ago of the details of her claims. Dunne has not responded directly to the leaks, but told the investigator that an alleged threat to “put [Frost] through a wing [of a fence]” was “like, ‘I’ll put you through a wing and you’ll probably get [hurt]’, not that ‘you’ll get hurt’ but ‘If you get hurt, it’s the only way you’re gonna learn cos you’re repeatedly doing this’, not that ‘I’m going to hurt you’.”

In a statement on Monday morning, the PJA said that while it has a policy “of not commenting on ongoing investigations … out of fairness, respect to the process and to natural justice being served without prejudice”, it “must comment on the current, deeply concerning situation”.

“The length of time taken in bringing this case to a conclusion is unacceptable,” the statement read. “Now that material has been leaked to the media, and the information leaked is the charge letter and accompanying documentation that should only have been available to the BHA, Robbie Dunne and his legal advisors, a fair hearing is impossible. The matter cannot now be permitted to proceed and we call upon the BHA to bring this matter to an end, however unsatisfactory that is.”

The statement continued: “The PJA is aware that its membership is upset by the negative headlines about the culture in the weighing room that have been circulating this past week. The PJA understands and sympathises with their frustration, particularly from those female jockeys who have contacted us. We are grateful to them for respecting the process that must be allowed to conclude.

“The PJA published a Code of Conduct in May which was the first of its kind in racing. We expect our members to abide by this code. We want to ensure that our sport welcomes everyone and we agree that people need to be held to account against a set of rules and codes of expected behaviour.

“We do not, however, accept the explicit and implied criticism of our membership as laid out in recent articles. The PJA does accept that there are “heat of the moment” exchanges, not uncommon in sport, that are quickly resolved and there may also be occasions when behaviours do fall short of the PJA’s Code of Conduct and the Rules of Racing.”

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Paul Struthers, the PJA’s chief executive, underlined the call for the case against Dunne to be dropped. “When serious allegations are made it is vital that they are investigated thoroughly and speedily,” Struthers said. “Equally, an individual investigated for potential offences under the Rules of Racing is entitled to be subjected to a fair process and have a fair hearing.

“It is surely now impossible for that to happen in this case, however unsatisfactory that is for both parties.”

The BHA has yet to respond to the PJA’s statement, but said in a statement after the initial leaks of information: “In the interests of procedural fairness the BHA does not comment on the details of ongoing investigations.

“This case is close to reaching its conclusion, with directions hearings scheduled for the near future. It is an important case and one that the BHA is taking very seriously. Cases such as this may be complex and involve significant legal representation.

“In order to ensure fairness for all parties such procedures - including the directions hearings – must be allowed to play out in full, and in private rather than through the media.”

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