PJA: Dunne-Frost trial ‘not remotely fair process’

The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) says Robbie Dunne has not been subject to a “remotely fair process” and described the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) findings on weighing room culture as “incredibly damaging”.

Dunne has been banned from racing for 18 months, with three months suspended, after being found guilty of bullying and harassing fellow rider Bryony Frost over a seven-month period last year.

Following the BHA’s ruling on Thursday, the PJA expressed “great sympathy” with Frost and accepted Dunne’s conduct fell “well short” of expected standards.

Before Dunne’s trial, the PJA called on the BHA investigation to end after documents related to the case were leaked to the Sunday Times, claiming a fair hearing was therefore “impossible”.

In a statement on Thursday, the PJA said: “Before the PJA responds to the Disciplinary Panel’s findings, we want to make it clear that the PJA has great sympathy with Bryony Frost and takes no issue with the fact that a complaint was taken to the BHA.

Our fears have been realised and we do not believe Robbie Dunne has been subjected to a remotely fair process.
PJA statement on Frost-Dunne case

“Whilst the PJA was not involved nor was its support or advice sought before a complaint was taken to the BHA, the PJA has itself taken a separate complaint to the BHA on behalf of another jockey and supported that jockey throughout, so most certainly does not criticise Bryony for doing the same.

“Bryony felt bullied, it certainly took courage to go through the process she has and we do not doubt the isolation she has felt. The PJA entirely accepts that Robbie Dunne’s conduct as found by the Disciplinary Panel fell well short of the standard the PJA expects.

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“All that said, the PJA does not accept the Disciplinary Panel’s findings in relation to the culture within and collective behaviour of the jump jockeys weighing room. It is a grossly inaccurate and wholly unfair representation of the weighing-room and a conclusion we believe is at odds with the evidence presented.

“On October 25th of this year, in response to the leak of confidential case papers and the resulting coverage in the media, the PJA stated that in our view a fair hearing was impossible and called for the BHA to bring the matter to a close.

“Our fears have been realised and we do not believe Robbie Dunne has been subjected to a remotely fair process.”

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Journalist Paul Hayward has said the guilty verdict in Robbie Dunne’s BHA disciplinary hearing has left a ‘severe indictment on the sport’s weighing room culture’

‘Lessons to be learnt for the PJA’

The statement continued: “We did not call for the matter to be brought to a close to try and sweep the matter under the carpet. We did so because we were aware of the significant failings of the investigation, one that was woefully inadequate, lacked the necessary independence and allowed outside interference.

“We were aware of significant inconsistencies in the evidence. We were aware that the BHA had enhanced the charges that were issued in April shortly before the hearing with no new evidence. We were aware there was a still to be concluded investigation into a serious data breach.

“Most importantly, the PJA and its Board had for some months lost confidence in the Disciplinary Panel due to a number of serious concerns including the long and striking track record of the Disciplinary Panel’s failure to ever criticise the BHA, its case management and its processes.

“The BHA and Disciplinary Panel have been aware of those concerns for some time.

“Furthermore, the PJA and its members are appalled by the BHA’s characterisation of the weighing room culture as “rancid”, made via their advocate and therefore presumably under instruction. This and the BHA’s conduct throughout this process is incredibly damaging.”

The PJA statement added it does not condone bullying and highlighted its latest code of conduct on jockey behaviour.

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Former jockey Barry Geraghty has said Robbie Dunne’s guilty verdict does not reflect the overall culture of the National Hunt weighing room

“Whilst we reject the wholesale criticism of the culture within the weighing room, everything is not perfect,” the PJA statement read.

“There are lessons to be learnt for the PJA and its members and we recognise change is needed. This starts with creating facilities that do not require female jockeys to be in the male jockeys changing room in order to do their job but doesn’t stop there.

“The life of a jockey is unrelentingly tough for the many reasons which are widely recognised. It is a particularly dangerous occupation where the risk of a fall and serious injury is ever present and safety is of the utmost importance.

“The PJA therefore accepts that the language used in the weighing room will not always be the language you would expect in an office. This is no different to what happens in the pressure cooker of any professional sport. However, it is vital all jockeys adhere to our Code of Conduct and are respectful of their colleagues, whether male or female.”

The PJA also said it had called for an improvement to facilities for female riders and said the BHA “did nothing”.

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