25th January 2018
1. On the 22 January 2018 the Independent Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry to consider whether the former licensed trainer Mr Paul Gilligan had breached Rule (A)30.1 of the Rules of Racing by attempting to influence witness evidence which was due to be given before a Disciplinary Panel during formal enquiry hearing procedures with the intention of misleading, manipulating and interfering with evidence. The BHA submitted that such action, if proved, is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain.
2. The BHA was represented by Andrew Howell. Mr Gilligan was not legally represented and did not appear before the Panel on the 22 January 2018. In an email dated 14 December 2017 and sent on behalf of Mr Gilligan by his solicitor, Mr Michael Keane, it was suggested that Mr Gilligan was “in serious financial difficulty” and would not attend the hearing or instruct lawyers to represent him. Similar sentiments were expressed in a further email sent by Mr Keane on the 8 January 2018. The Panel were informed that in response the BHA had offered Mr Gilligan the use of video facilities, the use of Whats App or a telephone conference call in order that he could argue his case before the Panel. Mr Gilligan declined each of these options despite being told that there would be no cost to him whichever he chose. It should also be noted that, in spite of a request from the BHA, Mr Gilligan and his lawyers did not submit a Schedule (A)6 form. However, in various documents exchanged between the parties prior to the hearing on 22 January 2018 it was made clear that Mr Gilligan denied any wrongdoing in relation to the matters which were the subject of the enquiry.
3. The Panel took the view that the case should proceed in the absence of Mr Gilligan as he had been afforded all reasonable methods of putting his version of events forward without the necessity of leaving the Republic of Ireland and without any cost to himself.
4. On the 21 and 22 March 2016 Mr Gilligan appeared before a BHA Disciplinary Panel at 75 High Holborn, London <https://maps.google.com/?q=75+High+Holborn,+London&entry=gmail&source=g> in relation to an allegation that he had acted in breach of Rule (A)29.1, namely that he ran DUBAWI PHANTOM in the Bet365 Handicap Hurdle race at Uttoxeter on the 29 June 2014 that being a race that DUBAWI PHANTOM was not qualified to run in as it had previously raced in the name of AYRES ROCK in unauthorised races in the Republic of Ireland.The Panel found Mr Gilligan to be in breach of Rule (A)29.1 and disqualified him for 6 months.
5. For reasons which are not relevant to the instant case that Disciplinary Panel decision was quashed and a re-hearing was ordered.
6. The re-hearing took place on the 13, 14 and 19 December 2016 in front of a differently constituted Panel. At the conclusion of the proceedings on the 19 December 2016 Mr Gilligan was found to be in breach of Rule (A)29.1 and was (again) disqualified for a period of 6 months. The events giving rise to the instant case unfolded during the re-hearing on the 14 December 2016.
Events of 14 December 2016
7. On the morning of the 14 December 2016 Mr Gilligan gave evidence on his own behalf.His evidence conveniently concluded just before 1.00p.m.It <https://1.00p.m.It> was made clear that a witness as to fact was to be called in support of Mr Gilligan’s case after lunch – one Joe McNamara.A brief discussion at the conclusion of the morning’s proceedings led to the suggestion that Mr Gilligan and Mr McNamara should be kept apart over lunch.Mr Keane (the solicitor acting for Mr Gilligan) undertook to convey the “appropriate advice” in this regard to Mr Gilligan.Commendably Mr Keane carried out this undertaking.
8. Mr McNamara was escorted to a room on the second floor of the BHA Offices by former BHA Compliance Advisor, Danielle Sharkey. Mr Gilligan left the building to go to the shop. Miss Sharkey made tea for Mr McNamara and gave him a copy of the Racing Post. After a short period of time, Miss Sharkey returned to the room where Mr McNamara was and, at 13.07 hours, as she approached she heard a telephone ring. Mr McNamara answered the telephone and it was on loud speaker. Miss Sharkey heard a female voice say “listen I’ve been told to tell you that when you are in your interview and you are asked about the weekend before” (then two unintelligible words) then “when he rode BUDDY HOLLY”. At this point Miss Sharkey walked into the room, warned Mr McNamara of the seriousness of the situation and asked Mr McNamara for possession of his telephone. He handed the telephone to her and she reported the matter to Counsel for the BHA. Miss Sharkey gave brief evidence to the Panel in this case on the 22 January 2018 when she confirmed the contents of the witness statement which she subsequently made in relation to these events as being accurate and truthful. She said she was sure the words “I have been told to tell you etc” and “BUDDY HOLLY” were used by the female who called Mr McNamara. She also said that she had made a contemporaneous note of the events. The Panel found her evidence to be compelling.
9. Mr Gilligan provided a response to these events in a short statement dated the 16 December 2016. In it Mr Gilligan said that his solicitor had explained to him that Mr McNamara was the next witness due to give evidence and was therefore being “brought to the witness room to be kept apart from other witnesses to ensure that there was no interference”. Mr Gilligan contended that he had telephoned his wife during the lunch break as she was anxious to know how the matter was going. He only mentioned one call to his wife and denied any wrongdoing.
10. A telephone production order was served upon Mr and Mrs Gilligan and Mr Gilligan complied with the order and served redacted sheets of itemised billing on the BHA.
11. The relevant calls are as follows:-
11. The BHA argue that this sequence of telephone calls is powerful evidence that Mr Gilligan contacted his wife who then contacted Mr McNamara with a view to tipping him off about what he (Mr McNamara) should say in evidence. Although there is no evidence who answered the call at 13.01 at the Nursing Home the BHA argue that the inference that it was Mrs Gilligan is irresistible. Her Facebook page shows a connection with the Nursing Home, she received a multimedia message from Mr Gilligan at 13.05 and at 13.07 she is speaking to Mr McNamara. The BHA suggest that the subsequent calls between Mr and Mrs Gilligan are, in effect, a debrief.
12. The Panel bears in mind the denials of Mr Gilligan in relation to this allegation and has given careful consideration to the whole of the evidence.Having done so we are satisfied on the balance of probabilities, indeed we feel driven to the conclusion, that Mr Gilligan rang his wife in order that she could contact Mr McNamara with a view to telling him what to say in relation to some of his evidence.In fact we find that that is exactly what she did do.
13. The evidence of Miss Sharkey that she heard the female (who we have no difficulty in concluding was Mrs Gilligan since the mobile telephone number was hers) saying “I’ve been told to tell you …..” is compelling evidence of interfering with a witness.
14. The mention of the horse BUDDY HOLLY is also damning evidence. Mr Gilligan had been cross examined earlier in the morning about that horse and its rider. Only those persons in the enquiry room would be aware of this. Those persons were eight in number – namely, the three person Panel, Mr Tim Naylor and Miss Sharkey (for the BHA), Mr Gilligan, Mr Keane (solicitor for Mr Gilligan) and Mrs Shirley Cowan, Secretary to the Panel. Only two of those persons could possibly know the telephone number, and existence, of the Nursing Home, namely, Mr Keane and Mr Gilligan. Mr Keane is a professional lawyer and his integrity is beyond question. We can safely exclude him as being the person who telephoned the Nursing Home at 13.01. That leaves only Mr Gilligan and he must have spoken to his wife who, only six minutes later, was speaking to Mr McNamara about BUDDY HOLLY.
15. Also, it is often dangerous to look at pieces of evidence in isolation. Although there is no direct evidence as to who Mr Gilligan spoke to at the Nursing Home we regard the inference that it was his wife as irresistible when the chronology of the calls is examined as a whole. In this context the reference to BUDDY HOLLY is highly probative. This call was minutes after Mr Gilligan’s call to the Nursing Home.
16. The chronology also demonstrates that Mr Gilligan is not being truthful in the statement of his dated 16 December 2016. He refers to only one call to his wife. This is clearly untrue. Why would he not tell the truth in relation to these matters if he had done nothing wrong? Why would he fail to mention the multimedia message that he sent to his wife two minutes before she rang Mr McNamara?
17. For all the above reasons we are entirely satisfied that Mr Gilligan attempted, through his wife, to interfere with the evidence that Mr McNamara was about to give.
18. This is very serious behaviour and very clearly amounts in our view to action which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and/or good reputation of horseracing in Great Britain. It is axiomatic, in our view, that interfering with a witness who is about to give evidence to a Disciplinary Panel hearing falls within the ambit of Rule (A)30.1. Accordingly we find the breach has been clearly proved to the required standard.
19. The range of sentences for a breach of Rule (A)30 is a fine of £1,000 - £15,000 or suspend/withdraw/disqualify for 1 month – 3 years.The entry points are £200 and 3 months respectively.
20. We regard this as a serious case. The only possible mitigation is the assistance given by Mr Gilligan in the early stages of the enquiry. He provided telephone records. However, that assistance quickly evaporated. He has since refused to provide a Schedule (A)6 form and refused the offer to give evidence to the Panel in circumstances where there would have been no cost to himself. In relation to aggravating features it is noteworthy that Mr Gilligan was told by his solicitor why he was being kept separate from Mr McNamara at just before 13.00. Within minutes (at 13.01) he was contacting his wife to put his plan of coaching Mr McNamara into action. It is an aggravating feature, in our view, that he was prepared to involve his wife in this enterprise. He has failed at any stage to provide any explanation for these events.
21. The decision of the Panel, bearing in mind all of the above, is to impose a disqualification of 9 months effective from the 22 January 2018 until 21 October 2018 inclusive.