Fallon v Horseracing Regulatory Authority
Reference:  EWHC 2030 (QB);  ISLR, SLR-1; (2006) SLJR 10
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Davis J
Date of judgment: 28 Jul 2006
Summary: Sports law - Supervisory jurisdiction of High Court over domestic tribunals - Evidence - Proportionality
Jacob Dean (Respondent)
Instructing Solicitors: BCL Burton Copeland for the Applicant; Charles Russell for the Respondent
Top jockey Kieren Fallon was suspended from riding in Great Britain by a special panel of the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, pending his trial on criminal charges of corruption. The HRA panel refused to hear evidence said to show the weakness of the criminal charges. Fallon appealed to the Appeal Board of the HRA, which upheld the decision. He then challenged that decision in the High Court.
(1) Did the HRA Panel and Appeal Board err in law in refusing to consider evidence said to show the weakness of the criminal case against Fallon?
(2) Was the penalty of suspension until trial a proportionate penalty within the ambit of the discretion of the HRA?
(1) The refusal to consider the evidence was correct. To consider that evidence, and thereby to attempt to second guess the CPS, was not a valid exercise. Consideration of only parts of the evidence in relation to only parts of the Crown’s case would have given no true indication of the strength or weakness of the case as a whole.
(2) No error of law or principle was found in the decision to suspend. The decision was neither capricious nor obviously wrong and was within the ambit of the discretion of the HRA.
The judgment of Davis J is a further confirmation of the deference which the High Court will show to the decisions of sporting bodies with regard to their licensing and disciplinary functions, following the line of authority from Bradley v Jockey Club and Flaherty v National Greyhound Club Ltd. The Judge’s rejection of the contention that disciplinary tribunals considering whether to impose a sanction as a result of pending criminal charges are always, as a matter of law, required to hear evidence as to the strength of the charges, is useful guidance for tribunals faced with similar circumstances in the future.