Judge halts case over possible disciplinary action against horse trainer

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan described bid as a complete abuse of the court process

A man who brought proceedings alleging his employment as assistant horse trainer was jeopardised due to alleged impending disciplinary action by the Turf Club against his prospective employer has had his case rejected at the High Court

A man who brought proceedings alleging his employment as assistant horse trainer was jeopardised due to alleged impending disciplinary action by the Turf Club against his prospective employer, well-known trainer Pat Hughes, has had his case rejected at the High Court.

William Murphy's application to prevent the disciplinary process was rejected by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan who described his bid as a complete abuse of the court process.

Mr Murphy claimed his contractual rights with Mr Hughes were being interfered because Mr Hughes will be unable to employ him should he lose his trainer’s licence at a disciplinary hearing.

Last October, Mr Hughes, who has trained winners for Cheltenham and Royal Ascot, was convicted of possessing unauthorised animal remedies, including the anabolic steroid stanozolol. He has appealed the conviction.

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Mr Hughes has also since been interviewed by the Turf Club but no disciplinary action has been taken against him as yet, the High Court heard.

Mr Hughes says that, after his conviction, the Turf Club put him on notice of its own misconduct investigation.

Mr Murphy, Hillview, Rhode, Co Offaly, says Mr Hughes, as a result of that notification, told him he would be unable to carry out the terms of an employment contract entered into between the two last September, under which Mr Murphy was to work as an assistant trainer from April 1st last for Mr Hughes for €500 per week.

Mr Murphy claimed his contractual rights with Mr Hughes were being interfered with because of the impending Turf Club inquiry which, he believed, will result in Mr Hughes’ trainer’s licence being revoked.

Mr Murphy said he believed this because after Tipperary trainer Phillip Fenton was also convicted last year of possessing banned animal medicines, the Turf Club banned Mr Fenton for three years from holding a licence.

Last week, Mr Murphy got permission from the High Court to serve notice of his proceedings seeking declarations prohibiting a disciplinary hearing. The case was against Mr Hughes, the Turf Club, Horse Racing Ireland, the Minister for Agriculture and the Attorney General.

Lawyers for the racing bodies and the State applied yesterday to have the case dismissed on grounds it was completely unstateable.

Karl Finnegan BL, for the racing bodies, said no disciplinary process has yet been carried out as Mr Hughes’ conviction is under appeal to the Circuit Court.

Mr Murphy seemed to be under an illusion Mr Hughes is not going to be able to employ him because of the proposed action by the Turf Club but Mr Hughes does not hold a trainer’s licence at the moment because he had not sought to renew it, counsel said.

Mr Hughes, of Bagnalstown, Co Carlow, who represented himself, said what counsel said was not correct. He said he had been brought before the Turf Club and he did have a right to appeal.

Mr Justice Gilligan, who was told Mr Murphy had previously unsuccessfully sought to bring the same court application, said this matter was “completely an abuse” of the court process and Mr Murphy knew that “very well”.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times