The seven year disqualifiations handed out to New South Wales couple Peter and Lorraine Perrin have been quashed on appeal to the Racing Appeals Tribunal.
Back in June 2009, the Perrins were given heavy seven year disqualifications after being found guilty of keeping rabbits and giving “live kills” to greyhounds.
A large part of the then GHRRA’s case was centred around an 8 year old video made of the incident and a kennel inspection by GHRRA Stewards and the RSPCA that found “eight european rabbits in cages”.
Both Peter and Lorrain Perin appealed the sentences firstly based on the the assumption that it was not an offence to keep rabbits in cages on the property, and there was no evidence of any improper activity with regard to those rabbits.
Secondly, that the video evidence had firstly been soemhow stolen from their property and had subsequently been edited to make it look like the rabbits were live when given to the greyhounds before being sent to GHHRA Stewards. The Perrins had consisitently maintained the rabbits were dead before they were gievn to the greyhounds.
On the first charge, the Racing Appeals Tribunal were emphatic that “the evidence before the stewards as to the first charge did not disclose an offence” and that “there was no evidence that Peter Perrin had done anything improper or untoward with regard to those or any other rabbits”. The GHRRA’s legal counsel quite properly conceded that the evidence could not sustain the charge, and it was withdrawn.
With regard to the second offence, the Racing Appeals Tribunal with the benefit of an eye witness account from a Mr Peterson, heard that the rabbits had been killed before being given to the greyhounds. They also noted that the origianl footage had been in video format and had been transferred “by some unexplained process to DVD”, raising the possibility that some editing had occured.
The Tribunal also heard that due to a dispute of the sale of the same pups, the Perrin’s had been the subject of considerable ill-will from South Australian Michael Stewart and Maurie Kiley. That ill-will had included threatening telephone calls and sms or text messages, and a threat to poison the Perrin’s greyhounds. That campaign had been so severe, that Peter Perrin had felt compelled to complain to the South Australian GRSA about the “harrassment”.
The Tribunal found that the “transcript of the text messages referred to demonstrates obvious malice and ill-will emanating from Kiley and/or Stewart towards the Appellants. As to whether this was justified as a result of a commercial dispute existing between Stewart, Kiley and the Appellants, is of no concern to this Tribunal”.
They further confirmed that “the Perrins vehemently denied their guilt”, and “Peter Perrin refuted the suggestion that he had fed a live rabbit to the litter”. They also noted Perrin had “claimed there, and he claimed before the Tribunal, that the video had been doctored, that it was not authentic”.
The Racing Appeal Tribunal under Judge McGuire and advisor John Shreck, found after reviewing the original DVD evidence several times that, “there is no evidence before the Tribunal that the Appellants did feed a live rabbit to a litter of pups. Accordingly, their appeals must be upheld.
The order of the Tribunal is that both appeals are upheld, and the convictions and disqualifications are quashed”.
The full trasnscript of the Racing Appeal Tribunal decision follows.
RACING APPEALS TRIBUNAL
NEW SOUTH WALES
TRIBUNAL: JUDGE J. C. MCGUIRE
ADVISOR: MR J. SCHRECK
APPEALS OF MR PETER PERRIN AND MRS LORRAINE PERRIN
The Tribunal is considering the appeals of Mr Peter Perrin and Mrs Lorraine Perrin. Mr Perrin appeals against his conviction and the penalty imposed in relation to a charge that he breached rule 86, which provides:
A person (including an official) shall be guilty of an offence if the person-
(af) uses an animal for any purpose connected with greyhound racing in a manner which is improper;
The particulars of the charge are:
That … Peter Perrin acted improperly by having eight European rabbits in a cage on his property at Bargo on the 17th February 2009 which were in the stewards opinion obtained for the purpose of being given to greyhounds in an act of animal cruelty.
Mr Peter Perrin was subjected to a second charge, namely, that he breached rule 109(15), which provides:
Any person (including an official) who:
(15) has, in relation to a greyhound or greyhound racing, done a thing, or omitted to do a thing, which in the opinion of the Stewards, is negligent, dishonest, corrupt, fraudulent or improper or constitutes misconduct.
The particulars of the charge are:
That … Mr Peter Perrin carried out an improper act by giving a live rabbit to a litter of pups by Birchgrove Tiger out of Full Intent that were whelped on 28th October 2000 as shown in the DVD marked as Exhibit H for the purpose of attacking the rabbit in an act of animal cruelty.
Mrs Perrin also was charged with breaching rule 109 (15). The particulars of the charge laid against her are:
That you, Mrs Lorraine Perrin, carried out an improper act by removing a live rabbit from a cage and giving it to your husband for the purpose of it being given to a litter of pups to attack in an act of cruelty as shown in the DVD marked as Exhibit H.
Peter Perrin was fined $600 in relation to the first charge, that is, under rule 86.
Each Appellant was disqualified for seven years on their convictions on the charge under rule 109(15).
The Tribunal had available to it the transcript of the stewards inquiry and a DVD in which is depicted the conduct giving rise to the second charge. It has also had the advantage of further evidence from the Appellants and the evidence of a Mr Peterson, an eye witness.
At the outset, the Tribunal made its view clear that the evidence before the stewards as to the first charge did not disclose an offence. Representatives of the Authority attended Peter Perrin’s premises and there they found eight live European rabbits in an enclosure. There was no evidence that Peter Perrin had done anything improper or untoward with regard to those or any other rabbits.
Mr Orlizki (on behalf of the stewards) quite properly conceded that the evidence could not sustain the charge, and it was withdrawn.
Accordingly, the Tribunal made an order quashing the stewards’ orders with regard to the conviction and fine.
As to the charges arising out of the alleged breaches of rule 109(15), the evidence before the stewards, and before this Tribunal, is to the following effect.
Peter Perrin had been a dog breeder and trainer for some forty years. In 2001 he sold two pups to a Michael Stewart of Adelaide. At the request of Stewart, who had come to Sydney, Mr Perrin gave a rabbit to a litter of pups which included the pups purchased by Stewart. It was Stewart’s request that a live rabbit be given to the pups. The Appellants, however, were only prepared to give a dead rabbit to the litter.
A video recording was taken which depicts Lorraine Perrin taking a rabbit from a hutch. It was stated by Peter Perrin that he took that rabbit from his wife and killed it by twisting its neck and breaking it over his knee.
Mr Peterson, a licensed greyhound person, was present. He observed the incident and the filming of it. Indeed at one stage he held the camera. He gave a clear account of observing Perrin kill the rabbit. It was his view that to give a live rabbit to a litter of pups was a dangerous activity. There was no reason to doubt the evidence of Mr Peterson.
Lorraine Perrin’s evidence was that she took a live rabbit from the hutch and held it up by the ears. She then handed it to her husband, who killed it. She stated that the rabbit was dead when Peter Perrin gave it to the pups. She denied ever having been involved in giving a live rabbit to pups or greyhounds. She confirmed Peter Perrin’s account that originally Stewart was to attend and view the rabbit being given to the litter. However, when it was found he could not be present, it was decided to film the event. Those pups, or at least some of them, were to be removed from the Perrin premises at or about that time and taken to a place which provided more appropriate accommodation for them.
It was put to Mrs Perrin that during the playing of the DVD a rabbit could be heard squealing.
She denied that any such squealing occurred. It was her account that she commenced to receive text messages and telephone calls from Michael Stewart and a man Maurie Kiley which contained explicit threats, that is to say, the telephone calls made explicit threats that the Perrins’ dogs would be poisoned. The Tribunal has a transcript of the text messages, and it is plain that they contain threatening messages.
Mrs Perrin also asserted that Stewart had taken a video recording of the subject incident from her home. She first became aware of its absence when she searched for it after receiving the threats to poison their dogs. There was some reference to that video in the course of the text messages or the telephone calls to her. Stewart had stayed with the Perrins and had been left alone in the house. His last visit was in the year 2006.
The video recording which had been transferred to a DVD disk reveals that Perrin held a rabbit up by its ears as he allowed the pups to jump up, in their attempts to attack it. He then threw it to the ground where it was torn about by the pups. The filming of that incident was a combined effort of Perrin and Peterson. Perrin told the Tribunal that, although Stewart was not present on the occasion when he gave the rabbit to the pups, he later stayed with the Perrins and was shown the video depiction of the incident. Perrin stated that Stewart had taken the video away without his permission or indeed his knowledge.
It was the effect of Perrin’s evidence that his conduct in the video displayed him holding up by the ears a rabbit which showed no signs of life, a rabbit whose neck he had broken after it had been handed to him by his wife, and that when he threw it to the ground and it was attacked by the litter, it was dead. Indeed it was dead immediately following his breaking of the animal’s neck.
A bitter dispute arose between Stewart and the Perrins regarding the sale of pups. This Tribunal is not concerned about their commercial activities. However, there is evidence before it that Stewart and his partner/syndicate member, one Maurie Kiley, telephoned and made text threats to Mrs Perrin, and obviously the telephone calls and text threats were directed to Peter Perrin, during 2008. In particular, it was indicated that a video existed and would be produced. Such video, it was asserted, showed Perrin feeding a live rabbit to dogs.
Perrin made a complaint to the South Australian Greyhound Racing Association. There is some dispute as to exactly what he complained of. It does not appear to matter to the Tribunal as to whether he actually complained about being blackmailed, or was the subject of extortion, or whether he did, as was adverted to by an official of the South Australian Greyhound Racing Association, merely complain about harassment. The fact of the matter is that he did communicate with the South Australian body. Clearly, he was raising some concern about the activities of Stewart.
On 17 February 2009 the Greyhound Racing Association received a DVD, sent anonymously. The filming of the incident was not recorded on DVD. It was a video. By means not communicated to the Tribunal, it was transferred to a DVD. That DVD, although forwarded to the Association without accompaniment, was later the subject of questioning before the stewards inquiry, in the course of which Kiley admitted that he had forwarded it. In the course of his evidence before the stewards inquiry, Kiley stated that it represented but a copy.
It had been, by some unexplained process, transferred from the original format to a DVD. What was depicted on the DVD was disputed by Perrin in that he maintained that it was not complete. He pointed to an obvious interruption in the filming, or at least in what appears on the DVD. There is no satisfactory explanation as to why Kiley or Stewart waited some seven years between the filming of the incident and the forwarding of the DVD to the Greyhound Racing Association.
In the course of his evidence before the stewards, Kiley undertook to provide to them the original film. He subsequently reneged on this undertaking, and the original is not available.
Accordingly, the stewards were unable to demonstrate the genuineness of the DVD as being an accurate depiction. As stated, it is apparent that there was a gap in the depiction. Whether this reveals some editing is unclear. However, it is entirely possible.
The transcript of the text messages referred to demonstrates obvious malice and ill-will emanating from Kiley and/or Stewart towards the Appellants. As to whether this was justified as a result of a commercial dispute existing between Stewart, Kiley and the Appellants, is of no concern to this Tribunal.
The transcript of the stewards inquiry reveals that the Perrins vehemently denied their guilt. In particular, Peter Perrin refuted the suggestion that he had fed a live rabbit to the litter. No admissions were forthcoming. He claimed there, and he claimed before the Tribunal, that the video had been doctored, that it was not authentic.
The case against the Perrins stands or falls by what is depicted in the video recording. If it displays the Perrins engaging in the feeding of a live rabbit to a litter of pups, then they are guilty of grossly serious misconduct, which would be obviously deserving of the condign penalty imposed by the stewards. Simply put, the issue is whether there is evidence to support the charge that Perrin fed a live rabbit to the dogs.
The Tribunal has viewed the DVD no less than ten times, and it is not satisfied that it displays Perrin holding a live rabbit which he threw onto the ground for the dogs to savage. It is the opinion of the Tribunal that a live rabbit would show some signs of movement or animation if held by the ears. It does not. If a live rabbit were then thrown to the ground, it seems obvious that it would make some effort to rise and run. Yet it displayed no activity whatsoever. What could possibly be viewed as a movement was entirely consistent with the animal bouncing to a slight degree, or demonstrating the movement that sometimes occurs after an animal has been killed. The Tribunal is not persuaded that there was some squealing noise which provided unequivocal evidence that it was produced by a live animal.
Simply put, there is no evidence before the Tribunal that the Appellants did feed a live rabbit to a litter of pups. Accordingly, their appeals must be upheld.
The order of the Tribunal is that both appeals are upheld, and the convictions and disqualifications are quashed.
There is to be a return of the appeal deposits.
27 July 2009
J. C. McGuire, Judge