Integrity boss reveals findings into Racing Victoria’s bungled Richard Laming case

Racing Integrity Commissioner Sean Carroll has raised concerns about Racing Victoria’s “inspection and investigation capability and capacity”.

Carroll on Wednesday handed down the findings and recommendations of an own motion inquiry into RV’s bungled case against Richard Laming, Marnu Potgieter and MD Zeyaur Rahman.

The 16-page report ends a four-month probe into why alleged stomach-tubing charges against the trio were sensationally withdrawn before the Victorian Racing Tribunal on February 25.

“I have formed a view, based on my observations throughout this Inquiry and during numerous race and non-race day interactions with RV stewards over the last two months,” Carroll said.

“RV has significant competence, expertise and capability in the performance of equine and race day integrity functions.

“However, I also consider that the role of Chief Steward, by its nature and breadth, may inhibit the effective oversight and management of the CAT (Compliance Assurance Team).”

Former CAT manager Dion Villella, one of two stipes at the centre of the Laming matter, was demoted in March to a “revised role” as a race day steward.

Villella was found in breach of an order from the VRT not contact witnesses, or interested parties, during an adjournment.

An internal RV review at the time confirmed Villella “initiated contact” with steward Mark Stevens, who was also due to give evidence, “on three occasions over three days”.

The contact (breach) led to the withdrawal of all charges against Laming and associates.

Carroll said the motivation for Villella’s contact with Stevens, twice using a mobile phone that was not his own and asking that the call log be deleted, was “self-doubt” in the “face of robust cross-examination”.

“CAT stewards before the Inquiry had limited knowledge of investigation principles,” Carroll said.

“I consider that the ‘standard investigation practices’ adopted by the Stewards at Cranbourne on 5 November 2019 provided the opportunity for the investigation to be compromised from the outset which, in my view, ultimately contributed to the application to withdraw the charges.

“These CAT members had limited investigation qualifications, and historically, RV stewards have received minimal formal specialist investigation education or training.”

The findings didn’t identify any evidence to support “other allegations of wrongdoing by the stewards”.Source:News Limited

The report acknowledged there are current and former CAT members with extensive investigations experience and qualifications.

Additionally, Carroll was satisfied “other allegations” about the conduct of the stewards and the evidence given to the VRT remains unfounded.

“I have reviewed all evidence available to me gathered throughout the Inquiry and have been unable to identify any evidence to support any other allegations of wrongdoing by the Stewards,” Carroll said.

RV’s initial public silence about the reasons for the withdrawal of charges fuelled speculation about alleged tampering of evidence.

News Corp Australia does not imply any wrongdoing, only that unsubstantiated claims were made.

Carroll has recommended RV conducts biannual reviews of investigations and prosecution policies, as well as bolster recruitment, training and “minimum standards of education” for key integrity staff.

Racing Victoria is expected to respond to the findings and recommendations.

Originally published asIntegrity boss reveals findings into Laming case bungle

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