Jockey Club sees off challenge

Appeal Board is not amenable to Judicial Review

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton today handed down an important decision on an issue well-ventilated in writings on Sports Law and Judicial Review: the validity of the Court of Appeal’s 1993 decision that decisions of disciplinary bodies of the Jockey Club are not amenable to judicial review.

The trainer Willie Mullins has challenged a 2004 decision by the Appeal Board of the Jockey Club, which upheld a decision of the Disciplinary Committee to disqualify BE MY ROYAL from the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup due to the presence in its urine of a prohibited substance (morphine). It is Mr Mullins’ case that the Appeal Board’s conclusions were wrong in law.

Mr Mullins sought judicial review in the Administrative Court, arguing that the Court of Appeal’s landmark decision in R v Disciplinary Committee of the Jockey Club ex parte Aga Khan [1993] 1 WLR 909 was (1) wrong, or (2) distinguishable in fact and/or in law. The judge held the first argument was not open to Mr Mullins before him or the Court of Appeal. He rejected the suggested factual distinctions. He held that procedural law had changed in October 2000 when the Human Rights Act came into force and the wording of Part 54 was amended, but that the test thus introduced was substantially the same as that applied by the Court of Appeal in 1993. The judge concluded he was bound by Aga Khan. He went on to say that he would have reached the same conclusion, were he free to consider the matter afresh; such decisions are subject to private law.

5RB‘s Mark Warby QC and Iain Christie (instructed by Charles Russell) appeared for the Jockey Club and Alexandra Marzec (also instructed by Charles Russell) represented the Appeal Board.

Click here for the 5RB case report and judgment.