EIGHT greyhound racing trainers alleged to have been involved in last year’s live baiting scandal have had their inquiries dropped by Greyhound Racing NSW.
Anthony Cauchi, John Cauchi, Majella Ferguson, Donna Grech, Zeke Kadir, Ian Morgan, Wayne Smith and David Sundstrom were all suspended by GRNSW in 2015, pending the outcome of their respective inquiries, following footage gathered by Animals Australia, which captured greyhounds being blooded using live animals such as rabbits and possums.
Some of the footage was then shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program, titled ‘Making A Killing’, which went to air on February 16, 2015.
However, on Friday, the authority body announced it had to ‘reluctantly withdraw’ the ongoing inquiries into the matters after it was determined the secret surveillance footage obtained was in breach of the Surveillance Devices Act 2005, which could potentially expose GRNSW to criminal prosecution if it were to press forward.
The technicality stems from section 11 (1) of the Surveillance Devices Act 2005 which says:
“It is an offence to publish, or communicate to any person, a record of the carrying on of an activity, that has come to the person’s knowledge as a direct or indirect result of the use of an optical surveillance device.”
This prevents GRNSW from depending on the footage for its inquiry into any breach of the Greyhound Racing Rules, however, it was noted criminal prosecutions conducted by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions or RSPCA NSW are not subject to the same restrictions.
Wayne Smith, one of the previously-suspended trainers, told Australian Racing Greyhound he had mixed feelings about the announcement, which he was made aware of through a friend on Friday afternoon.
“It’s strange,” Smith said.
“I have been suspended for 12 months and I was very disappointed back then, but I was slowly getting over it.
“I had to get rid of all my dogs and the whole thing upset the apple cart left, right and centre for me.
“Now they are dropping the charges, rightfully so, but it took them 12 months to do so. Wow.”
Smith, who had been involved in the industry for 30 years prior to his suspension, said he was distressed by GRNSW’s decision to suspend his licence last year, with the only vision tying him to the scandal involving a dead rabbit.
“The footage (was obtained) illegally, there is no doubt about that at all,” he said.
“When I first went into the inquiries 10 months ago me and my solicitor told them (GRNSW) they only had footage of a dead rabbit – and they agreed with me.
“Yet they proceeded to suspend me, based on illegal footage of a dead rabbit for some unknown reason.
“It was very disappointing.”
With NSW licenses due for renewal at the beginning of the 2015/2016 financial year, the suspended persons will now have to re-apply to be registered participants of the greyhound racing industry.
GRNSW was unable to confirm whether it had the power to deny the participants their licences upon application. Smith says he is unsure at this stage whether he will apply to get back into the dog game after a difficult year.
“It has been a long time since I have had dogs and now I am thinking do I want to go and get dogs again?” he said.
“I will sit down with my family and we will have a talk about it.
“I always loved my dogs and when they were taken off me 12 months ago it left a big hole in my life.
“It has been horrible, the whole thing, not only for me but for people who are friends of mine — I have lost friends throughout this whole thing — it has been horrible.”
GRNSW also announced it had withdrawn its inquiries into six other participants, namely Todd Fear, Harry Sarkis, Leo Vanderburg, Adam Wade, Paul Wade and Daniel Brewer, who had appeared before or had been named in the Special Commission of Inquiry.
GRNSW said in the statement they could not lay charges against the participants due to the evidence given throughout the Special Commission being inadmissible.
“A number of witnesses that gave evidence at the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW have subsequently refused to answer questions or assist GRNSW’s inquiries,” it read.
“Accordingly as GRNSW has no power to compel witnesses to attend and/or answer questions, and the Special Commissions of Inquiry Act 1983 prevents admissions of wrongdoing by witnesses being used in other proceedings, GRNSW concluded there was insufficient evidence to lay charges against these participants.
“The refusal of witnesses to cooperate with GRNSW’s inquiries, prohibitions contained in the Surveillance Devices legislation, insufficient regulatory powers and inability to use admissions of wrongdoing made at the Commission is deeply frustrating and prevents GRNSW from taking appropriate disciplinary action in these matters.”