Tribunal slashes ban for disgraced trainer
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Friday handed down another ruling in the Ben Currie case, this time reducing an original 18-month disqualification for raceday treatments to six months.
It follows another QCAT ruling last month where Toowoomba trainer Currie also had an original sentence reduced over the detection of illegal substances in a number of his horses to 12 months.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission has appealed this ruling, as has Currie himself.
There are still a number of other legal matters yet to play out for Currie, who at one time was training more winners in Queensland than any other trainer.
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"In relation to the current status of Ben Currie's outstanding inquiries, the Commission has agreed to adjourn its inquiry into seven alleged breaches of the rules of racing until after the resolution of a criminal charge he is currently facing," Integrity commissioner Ross Barnett said.
"A date is yet to be set for a further stewards inquiry into 14 alleged breaches of the rules of racing issued on 28 May 2018."
The matter determined by QCAT on Friday revolved around the application of a substance, said to be boost paste, to several horses at the Currie stables run by his father Mark at Glenvale in Toowoomba.
This was the incident that started the long-running Currie inquiries.
In all, stewards found Currie guilty of 12 charges of causing a horse to be administered on two days, in March and April 2018, a substance on raceday and disqualified him for 12 months on each of those days. That was changed to 18 months disqualification in total at the Internal Review stage.
QCAT member Michael Howe deemed CCTV footage of the alleged instances only provided conclusive proof of three horses being treated in April 2018 (Weetwood day), but said the footage of the instances in March could not be proven, as he wasn't satisfied the identity of the horses in question was conclusive.
In his ruling, member Howe noted Ben Currie effectively abnegated all responsibility for horses at the Glenvale premises to his father Mark and that Mark Currie's supervision of staff was "marginal at best".
"I conclude there was no adequate supervision by (Mark Currie) of the staff at Glenvale. Similarly there was no supervision of (Mark Currie) and therefore the staff at Glenvale by (Ben) Currie," Howe wrote.
He went on to say that Ben Currie "could have exercised some supervisory control over Glenvale had he bothered".
"By the complete abnegation of responsibility for staff compliance with the administration regime required by the Rules of Racing, I conclude (Ben) Currie may be said to have caused the administration of medicine to horses on the race day of the 7th (April)," he said.
Howe noted the reduced sentences of Mark Currie (wholly suspended 12 months suspension) and staffer Cameron Schwenke (three months disqualification) were less than the mandatory six months disqualification under this rule, but said "I am not privy to the special circumstances relied upon to arrive at those particular penalties".
"I note (those penalties), but I do not regard them as establishing any sort of benchmark without knowing why they were so reduced," he said.
Howe said he did not categorise Ben Currie "as someone free from blame" but that he did not fall into the same category as someone guilty of physical administration.
Originally published as Tribunal slashes ban for disgraced trainer