Life bans for racing couple

Liz Bell

WELL-KNOWN local greyhound identities Des Dooley and his wife Dianne will appeal life bans handed down by the independent Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

The pair were last week slapped with the bans after a hearing on January 29 was told that part of an animal product had been used as a lure at their Maffra training premises.

Mr Dooley, a greyhound trainer and long-standing racing manager of the Sale Greyhound Racing Club, and his wife, also a registered greyhound trainer and breeder in charge of whelping duties at the property, have until March to lodge an appeal against the decision at the Victorian Civil and Adminstrative Tribunal.

Since the live baiting scandal of 2015 resulted in an overhaul of the industry in 2016, it has been a serious offence under Greyhound Racing Victoria’s rules to use any animal or parts of animals to train dogs.

A life ban means the couple — strong advocates for greyhound racing who jointly operate a successful breeding and training operation — are no longer permitted any direct involvement in the greyhound racing industry, including the keeping of greyhounds, or in dog racing or training.

In addition, Mr Dooley will no longer be able to hold his position as racing manager at Sale Greyhounds.

Mrs Dooley also received a three and six-month ban, to run concurrently, for two separate breaches of the Greyhound Australasia rules relating to interfering with a kennel inspection.

The board heard that on January 31, 2017, GRV welfare inspectors conducting an inspection at the Dooley’s licensed premises observed a sheepskin lure to train dogs. However, the inspectors were ejected from the property by Mrs Dooley, who was there without her husband and repeatedly told them to leave.

The following day, February 1, 2107, inspectors returned and located a sheepskin which had been used as part of a lure in a bin.

Mrs Dooley “wilfully interfered” with that inspection and twice removed an identification tag from the vest of a welfare inspector.

The Dooleys were both charged with breaching Local Racing Rule 42.18, which, among other things, makes it an offence to possess, on premises where greyhounds are trained, any part of an animal which might reasonably be used as a lure to entice a greyhound to pursue it. Mr Dooley had pleaded guilty to that offence.

Mr Dooley gave evidence that he last used the lure about Christmas 2016. He knew about the existence of the rule banning the use of animals or animal parts, but considered the rule to be “bulls**t”.

He considered the use of a lamb skin from an animal killed eight years ago was different to live baiting and should not be prohibited.

However, under the strict GRV rules, anyone found guilty of an offence under LR 42.18 faces a minimum penalty of disqualification for life unless “special circumstances” exist.

The board found none of the eight facts put forward by Mr Dooley’s defence counsel amounted to “special circumstances”, including his extensive involvement in the industry, his “otherwise excellent character and record”, and his cooperation and guilty plea.

The board also found despite Mrs Dooley’s defence counsel’s submission her offending was at the lower end of the scale, her “excellent character” and record, and her plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity, there were no special circumstances that would lessen the minimum life ban. It heard Mrs Dooley realised she had done the wrong thing by interfering with the inspection and not letting the officers take the sheepskin on the first inspection, and was “extremely apologetic”.

Because of the GRV rules, the board found it had “no alternative” but to impose penalties of life disqualification, effective immediate.

A spokesman for GRV, the controlling body which regulates greyhound racing in the state, said it could not comment on the disciplinary board’s decision.

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board is a statutory body independent of GRV. It has jurisdiction to determine appeals in relation to certain penalties imposed by GRV stewards and to rule on charges brought in relation to the alleged commission of serious offences.

The board will also have the power to investigate complaints about integrity issues made by controlling body board members, integrity managers, or the chief and deputy chief steward. It can also direct a controlling body to provide information or take specific actions.

The board’s brief is to act in regard to the “general interests of the industry in maintaining high standards of probity and integrity”.

Sale Greyhound Racing Club general manager Peter Johnston said he could not comment on the Dooley’s bans, but confirmed an appeal would be lodged.

In June last year, the state government announced it was implementing tough new integrity standards in Victorian racing by providing independent oversight and a robust disciplinary framework for the industry.

The Racing Amendment (Integrity and Disciplinary Structures) Bill 2018 led to the establishment of the Victorian Racing Integrity Board and the Victorian Racing Tribunal. The bill will also strengthen the Racing Integrity Commissioner’s board of inquiry powers.

The Victorian Racing Integrity Board will oversee the relationship between controlling bodies of the three racing codes and their integrity staff, to ensure they operate independently from commercial considerations.

The board will also have the power to investigate complaints about integrity issues made by controlling body board members, integrity managers, or the chief and deputy chief steward. It can also direct a controlling body to provide information or take specific actions.