The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has said it shares concerns about the “tone and management” of Robbie Dunne’s appeal hearing, which saw the jockey’s 18-month ban for bullying and harassing Bryony Frost reduced to 10 months.
Last month, Dunne’s penalty was shortened despite his appeal being formally rejected by an independent panel, with a number of journalists present at the hearing criticising the process amid claims of “inappropriate and out of date” language.
Despite agreeing that Dunne had been guilty of breaching rule J19 – conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing – Appeal Board chair Anthony Boswood QC felt one breach of the rule, rather than the previous four, covered all the offences.
Explaining its reasons on Thursday, the appeal board said it regarded an important feature of the case to be that “the conduct was in front of the wider public and of the racing community”, while adding that Dunne had not been given sufficient credit for an attempted apology to Frost.
In a statement on Thursday, the BHA accepted the decision of the board, but added: “While it is fair to point out that both sides received an opportunity to articulate their arguments before the independent Appeal Board, the BHA is aware of the criticisms of the tone and management of the Appeal Board hearing, and recognises and shares these concerns.
“A review of the Appeal Board structure was discussed some time prior to this hearing and the BHA will be working with the independent Judicial Panel Chair on a review of the Appeal Board framework in the coming months.
“It is the BHA’s view that such Panels, as well as having the appropriate legal skills and experience, ought also to be appropriately diverse and inclusive at all times.”
Discussing the issue on Racing Debate earlier this month, Sky Sports Racing’s Josh Apiafi said: “A lot of the work that racing is trying to do is to make it more representative of society and open for everybody and yet here some of the wording that has come out is something like from Downton Abbey, like an old boys’ club.
“I think we took a significant step back. You’re talking about the bullying of a woman and there were nine males in the room [at the appeal hearing].
“I hope that the process can change so that it’s far more open in terms of the people we can have on those panels. I don’t believe it’s currently representative of the people in our sport.”