The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it shared concerns about the “tone and handling” of Robbie Dunne’s appeal hearing, which saw the jockey’s 18-month ban for bullying and harassment of Bryony Frost reduced to 10 months.
Dunne’s sentence was shortened last month despite his appeal being formally rejected by an independent panel, with a number of journalists at the hearing criticizing the process amid allegations of “inappropriate and outdated” language.
Although he admitted that Dunne had been guilty of breaching rule J19 – conduct to the prejudice of the integrity, good conduct and good name of horse racing – the chairman of the appeal committee, Anthony Boswood QC, felt that one breach of the rule, instead of the previous four, covered all breaches.
Explaining its reasons on Thursday, the appeal board said it considered an important feature of the case to be that “the conduct was in front of the general public and the racing community”, while adding that Dunne had no not received enough credit for an attempted to apologize to Frost.
In a statement on Thursday, the BHA accepted the board’s decision, but added: “While it is fair to point out that both parties have had the opportunity to articulate their case before the independent appeal board, the BHA is aware of the criticisms of the Appeal Board’s tone and handling of the hearing, and acknowledges and shares these concerns.
“A review of the appeal board structure was discussed some time before this hearing and the BHA will be working with the independent chairman of the Judiciary Committee on a review of the appeal board framework in the coming months.
“The BHA is of the view that these panels, in addition to having the appropriate legal skills and experience, should also be sufficiently diverse and inclusive at all times.”
Discussing the matter 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 to everyone. and yet here some of the wording that has come out is something like Downton Abbeylike an old boys club.
“I think we’ve taken a big step backwards. You’re talking about bullying one woman and there were nine men in the room. [at the appeal hearing].
“Hopefully the process can change so that it’s a lot more open in terms of who we can have on those panels. I don’t think it’s currently representative of people in our sport.”