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By Graham Potter | Monday, September 30, 2019

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

The fact that racing participants who have been charged and found guilty of various offences have their penalties reduced on appeal on such a regular basis surely is a circumstance that should be put under the microscope.

At the outset it should be noted that nobody wants any license holder to be subject to any unfair penalty and the right of appeal will always be a part of the process to guard against that outcome … BUT … if penalties in too many cases are being reduced, sometimes drastically, on appeal it leaves the system open to question.

It obviously firstly begs the question … are those who are imposing the original penalties getting it wrong on these occasions? If so … why? Do the parameter guidelines in which they work give the correct measure of control? Is there a consistency in any precedents to which they can refer?

Or, is it mostly just a case of those on the appeal board members being too lenient … sometimes maybe through a lack of any particular racing knowledge … with some of their decisions arguably patently failing to be seen to support the stewards in their attempts to keep the game on the straight and narrow?

Either way, while this sideshow rolls on with an almost weekly penalty / reduced penalty monotony, with seemingly nobody of consequence concerned about the contradiction, it can be seen to be doing racing a disservice.

Penalties for the guilty are handed out with a twofold purpose … not only as punishment for the offender but also as a deterrent to others. To achieve both of those aims you can’t have penalties waving in the wind, first blowing one way and then another.

The other factor that comes into play with the success that many people, rightly or wrongly, have on appeal is that most participants will now appeal almost anything … as they do … because the appeal percentage records show will have a good chance of getting a penalty reduced so why not take a punt.

Inviting people to act on that incentive merely adds to the burden of an already clogged up system which once again does nobody any good except those allowed to continue on under a stay of proceedings until their matters are finalised … but that’s another story.

Everything in racing’s judicial process is entwined with every other moving part within that process which makes it difficult to fix or improve individual aspects … such as the disturbing variation of penalties … but that does not alter the fact that plenty of thought should be given to making much needed improvements to overhaul a system that is really just plodding along in a world of its own.

One of the problems with racing is that it often allows something that is not good enough to continue unchallenged until it becomes the norm.

It shouldn’t be that way.

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