Day At The Track

Evidence objection

03:48 PM 29 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Amanda Turnbull, Harness Racing
Amanda Turnbull
Shepparton News Photo

Harness Racing Victoria evidence, set to be a key piece in the prosecution case against four alleged race fixers, was thrown out in court yesterday.

Nathan Jack, Amanda Turnbull, Mark Pitt and Lisa Bartley faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court yesterday for the second day of a hearing, accused of conduct that corrupts a betting outcome.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It comes after an investigation into a race at Cobram on June 22, 2015, which Airbournemagic won.

Lawyers for the accused objected to evidence Harness Racing Victoria gathered, including the downloading of phone data and certain answers given to racing stewards.

‘‘These pieces of evidence should be excluded,’’ Mr Jack’s defence lawyer Anthony Lewis told the court.

‘‘My focus is on (the) question of unfairness to the accused ... circumstances unfair to the defendant.’’

Mr Lewis said stewards met Mr Jack on his property, asked him questions and he was forced to answer them and was told if he did not — would have committed an offence.

‘‘If they don’t comply, they will be likely charged and their livelihoods at stake,’’ he said.

‘‘It is a compulsory, involuntary process ... they can refuse to answer or provide the phone, but they would only do so knowing disqualification would be inevitable.

‘‘If an admission is involuntary, then it’s inadmissible. Has the evidence been obtained by compulsion? If it has, it ought to be excluded.’’

Mr Lewis added the defendants complied with the stewards’ inquiry for the sole purpose of the stewards’ inquiry.

‘‘(They) never signed an agreement that they’re waiving their rights,’’ he said.

‘‘Never told the answers would be given to police, that’s not in the rules.’’

Prosecutor Gary Hevey disagreed, arguing the four voluntarily signed up to be involved with Harness Racing Victoria, to be bound by the rules, meaning they knew the consequences.

‘‘This was a voluntary association ... people can choose to be members or participate in the harness racing industry,’’ he told the court.

‘‘They chose to belong and in doing so they must submit to the rules of this voluntary association.

‘‘At the interviews it was open for each of the persons being questioned to respond with I don’t want to play any more ... it was open for them to say no.’’

Magistrate John Murphy said while the consequences of refusing to comply with a steward’s request did not include jail time, the consequences certainly included the defendants’ racing licence and as a consequence their professional livelihood.

‘‘One of the basis of our rule of law is that a person has the right to remain silent,’’ he said.

‘‘The accused has a fundamental right to remain silent and they can’t under HRV unless they wish to suffer penalties outlined.

‘‘It would be unfair to an accused to use the evidence ... and a denial of natural justice.

‘‘My ruling is I do not intend to allow the evidence to be given.’’

On Monday, the court heard about the alleged tactics adopted during the race, with prosecution outlining allegations Mr Jack, on Tooram Lad, allegedly allowed Airbournemagic, who Mr Pitt drove, to win the race.

Representatives from different betting agencies including Bet365, Ladbrokes and Victoria Police are set to give evidence, with the prosecution saying ‘‘thousands and thousands of dollars’’ were allegedly returned from profits.

The hearing continues.

The race in question

By HAYDEN THOMSON

Reprinted with permission of The Shepparton News

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