The esteemed racing commentator brings us his latest words of wisdom.
The opening of the Kieren Fallon trial this week covered a lot of column inches without, due to reporting restrictions, saying anything of any consequence.
Unlike the States where all the action is played out in front of TV cameras like some sort of reality game show, UK reporting restrictions stop any information being put into the public domain which may jeopardise any subsequent future trial and avoid any undue pressure on jurors from stay at home acquaintances with their own views on the evidence they have heard.
This leads to the usual bizarre opening day articles which will always include :
Pen Portraits of the leading players, usually the judge and lead counsels. This is a bit like a form guide with previous records being analysed along with any possible interest or connection with racing.
Actual portraits by the resident court artist. As this is about the first time I have known what the defendants actually look like I can honestly say they need a new one. Whilst you may have recognised Fallon at a push, and maybe Miles Rodgers (as he weighed twice any of the others) the attempt at Darren Williams was a truly shocking effort.
Reporting of the jury selection. Whilst it is a cornerstone of our judicial system the process of parading and questioning of close on 100 people and the actual exclusion of anyone who may have the first idea about racing, on the grounds they may be prejudiced, does little to boost confidence that those selected will be able to interpret and understand the evidence they will hear concerning the defrauding of punters on betting exchanges.
So having got the niceties out of the way it is usual for token banalities to be published to show that the paper is represented and the poor soul allocated the beat has not fallen asleep amidst the legal technicalities and posturing.
However we did gain an unexpected treat as the following day the headlines spoke of ‘Leaks at the Old Bailey trial of Kieren Fallon’ though sadly this turned out to be a burst water pipe strategically placed above the court room which led to a suspension of proceedings. Either that or a clerk of the course had been in charge of the Old Bailey irrigation system and overwatered.
Despite the tedium of the day to day reporting of events of the Old Bailey trial it will at least produce, via the court stenographer, a full transcript of all of the evidence. Once the dramatic conclusion is reached, any sentence passed and reporting restrictions lifted there will be an avalanche of information, key moments of the trial to appease the starved media frenzy and horse racing will make one of its rare appearances on the front pages under sensationalist headlines. Whatever the accuracy of the tabloid banners at least all the evidence is a matter of record and validates the judicial process.
This made this weeks claim by Seb Sanders that he had been misquoted by the HRA over his evidence at a Bath stewards enquiry at the subsequent appeal all the more irritating. Whilst it looked a bad decision on the day and the reversal on appeal undoubtedly correct, surely had full transcripts of the enquiry been available at the Appeal any misquoting would have been impossible.
I am in an undoubted minority (of about one!) amongst many of my broadcast colleagues who believe that stewards enquiries should be televised. Their arguments for the merits of doing so are usually :
1. The punters money is at stake and hence they have a right to witness the evidence.
2. It makes great TV.
My view is that based on my experience of Australian enquiries it becomes a circus where those who are more eloquent and experienced can run rings around more nervous less articulate colleagues. Punters by the very fact they have money involved are hardly going to have an unbiased view of proceedings, or care how fair the outcome is if it means they collect.
The fundamental question must be whether the televising of stewards enquiries would lead to more correct decisions being made under the Rules of Racing. Based on the show trials of the likes of O.J Simpson in the States one would be hard pressed to say that was a likely outcome.
What should undoubtedly be produced however, and made available to the public via the HRA website is a full written transcript of the evidence and a limited number of members of the Press allowed to attend, as they currently are at some Appeals.
Justice must not just be done, it must be seen to be done.
Well done to jockey Matthew Davies, who having been given a positive mention in last weeks article as an apprentice to follow, rode two winners this week to take his career total to six.
Whilst his name remains unfamiliar he may continue to be underbet though I expect his star to soon be in the ascendancy and it was interesting to see Richard Fahey use him for the first time at Pontefract this week.
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