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Result of an Enquiry (N. Wakefield) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 22 April 2021
                                             

Result of an Enquiry (N. Wakefield) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 22 April 2021


27/04/2021 @ 14:00:00

Nigel Wakefield

1. On 22 April 2021 the above Panel convened to consider whether Mr Nigel Wakefield, a Travelling Head Lad for Licensed Trainer Mr Michael Appleby, was is in breach of the above Rules in that I - he was guilty of conduct prejudicial to Horseracing for driving a horsebox into persons directing traffic outside Chelmsford City Racecourse on 2 September 2017 (Rule (A)30.1 old Rules) and II - he was guilty of such conduct for aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse towards racecourse staff at Nottingham Racecourse on 14 October 2020.

2. Mr Wakefield was represented by Mr Adam Flacks and the BHA by Mr Oliver Harland. There were no objections to the constitution of the Panel.  Mr Wakefield had, prior to the hearing, given written notice of admissions to both breaches and confirmation of that was given before us. Both parties had provided us with helpful written submissions and we had all seen CCTV footage of the Breach 1 incident. Further oral submissions were made before us.

3. The Facts as we found them : Breach 1. On 21 September 2017 there were traffic restrictions around the racecourse in preparation for a Boyzone concert following the Racing.  Mr Appleby had 2 runners at the meeting. In March 2019 a member of the public contacted Sarah Bromley an Investigating Officer concerning the conviction of Mr Wakefield at Chelmsford Crown Court for offences relating to his driving of the horsebox from the course; concern was expressed as to the fact that no action had been taken by the BHA.  Ms Bromley as instructed sought information from Mr Wakefield. The BHA made several requests to Mr Wakefield in that regard but no meaningful response was received from him until 9 April 2020. Video footage was obtained from the Traffic Authority concerned. The footage shows Mr Wakefield removing cones in the road and then resuming the driver’s seat and starting the engine. Employees in high visibility clothing were present and they attempted to replace the cones.  Mr. Wakefield drove through the cones and knocked an employee to the ground.  Mr Wakefield stopped momentarily while employees including the victim of the assault attempted to confront him.  He however drove off at speed with a road sign stuck underneath the vehicle with employees chasing.  There were horses in the box at the time. On 11 February Mr Wakefield appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court charged with Dangerous Driving and Common Assault.  He pleaded Guilty to the lesser alternative of Driving without Due Care and Attention and the Assault.  He was fined and his license was endorsed. On 30 June 2020 he was interviewed: in short summary he said that it was “history” and “road rage.”

4. The Facts as we found them : Breach 2.  On 14 October 2020 a Stewards Enquiry was held into the conduct of Mr Wakefield at Nottingham Racecourse.  Mr. Wakefield had been aggressive and verbally abusive towards racecourse staff.  The staff concerned were but doing their duty carrying out Covid compliant procedures.  Mr Wakefield was belligerent and aggressive with frequent use of f- word expletives.  In the Enquiry which followed Mr. Wakefield denied that he had sworn and said, with the 2 members of staff present : “ There’s one thing in this world, two things in this world I don’t like . One is a thief which I can cope with and second is a liar. I’ve got two facing me."

5. The Facts as we found them : History of improper conduct.  Regrettably, Mr Wakefield has been warned twice before for his unacceptable behaviour at racecourses, Southwell on 18 January 2018 and Lingfield on 11 August 2018.  In the course of the investigation he had refused to cooperate with the authorities over months and on 12 February was abusive to Ms Bromley.

6. Penalty Guidelines : Breach 1 : the entry point is a £2,000 fine and/or 3 months exclusion; Range £1,000 - £15,000 fine and/or 1 month - 3 years exclusion. Breach 2: the entry point is £1,000 fine; range £100 - £5,000 fine.

7. Submissions : BHA 1) the gravity of the driving incident including as it did prejudice to the reputation of Horseracing from violence leading to Crown Court proceedings; 2) lack of concern for horses in Mr Wakefield’s care at the time 3) history of aggressive behaviour and warnings 4) failure to cooperate with the investigation including verbal abuse to the Investigating Officer 5) commission of Breach 2 while under investigation for Breach 1 6) conduct as described above at Stewards Enquiry 7) little real mitigation given that evidence unequivocal and overwhelming. Mr Wakefield: 1) an experienced employee in Racing since the 1980’s ; 2) Stressful work in a 6 day week ; 3) Remorse ; 4) learning of diagnosis of cancer of a friend on the day of Breach 1; 5) fact of conviction and sentence at Crown Court as to an incident in 2017; 6) previous incidents were minor ones without further process; 7) as to failure to cooperate his view that matters resolved by Crown Court proceedings; 8) the effect disqualification would have on him ; 9) character references 10) asserted intention to arrange anger management therapy.

8. Our Judgement: 1) that Mr Wakefield has on a number of occasions displayed aggression, disrespect, verbal abuse and on one occasion, violence ie assault; 2) that whereas he has been punished for the driving incident there is a further important element to the charge before us ie damage done to the integrity and standing of Horseracing; 3) that fellow participants in the sport, employees, decent people doing their jobs are entitled to respect and not to be verbally abused with foul language; 4) we acknowledge the character evidence; Mr Wakefield is highly thought of and may need help with anger management although months have passed without positive steps being taken as opposed to the asserted intention to do so; 5) the evidence against Mr Wakefield was unequivocal and overwhelming; 6) we do not accept that disqualification must lead inevitably to the loss of his job; 7) that in all the circumstances the matters concerned are so serious that there must be disqualification; 8) we find that there is little real remorse as opposed to final acceptance of reality.

9. Penalties: We upload the gravity of the overall breaches onto Breach 1 and thus impose no separate penalty for Breach 2; that does not mean, we emphasise that we do not consider Breach 2 serious, we do. In view of Mr Wakefield’s financial circumstances we do not impose a fine. We impose on Breach 1 4 months disqualification with immediate effect with the final 2 months suspended for 3 months subject to no further breaches by Mr Wakefield of the Rules of Racing during that period. Upon application we grant dispensation for Mr Wakefield to continue to work at Mr Appleby’s yard during the full period of disqualification, but he cannot attend a racecourse until - at the earliest - the first two months have expired.
 

Notes to Editors:

 
1. The Panel for the Enquiries was: James O'Mahony, Jodie Mogford, Ian Stark OBE. 

Please note, the BHA Judicial Panel is an independent body which encompasses the Disciplinary Panel, Appeal Board and Licensing Committee. It receives administrative support from the BHA via the Judicial Panel Secretary. 
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