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Tanner v Greyhound Board of Great Britain

The principles of fair procedure ought to be well known to most sporting disciplinary bodies by now, but a case before the disciplinary and appellate bodies of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) illustrates how procedural slips can still occur, causing substantial unfairness to a person facing disciplinary action. The case also shows the power of a fair appellate body to put right procedural defects.

Tom Tanner trains greyhounds in the west of Ireland and brings dogs to the UK to be sold. One sales trip led to a charge of administering the prohibited steroid Stanozolol to a dog called “Collateral Damage”, and another charge relating to the welfare of several dogs. Mr Tanner suffered more than collateral damage – he was found guilty on both charges. For the drug charge he was “warned off “(banned from greyhound racing in Great Britain) for six months and fined £1,000, but for the welfare charge he was warned off permanently, and fined £5,000.

Mr Tanner claimed that the drug had been administered to the dog while it was being reared by someone else, and disputed the welfare allegations, noting that the dogs showed some effects from a rough ferry crossing from Northern Ireland. 

The procedure before the GBGB’s Disciplinary Committee was far from flawless. The GBGB produced at the hearing a document from the Irish Greyhound Stud Book that alleged that Mr Tanner had reared the drugged dog. Mr Tanner, who disputed this allegation, had not been shown the document before and had no opportunity to produce material refuting the claim that he had reared the dog.

The Disciplinary Committee disbelieved Mr Tanner and made adverse comments about his veracity. At this point things took a further unfortunate turn - the same committee proceeded to hear the welfare charge, where once again the credibility of Mr Tanner was in issue. Having already found that it did not believe Mr Tanner in the morning, the committee did not believe him in the afternoon, and so he was convicted of the more serious charge and warned off for good.

Mr Tanner appealed to the GBGB’s Appeal Board, an independent three-person panel presided over by Leading Counsel. The Appeal Board saw the procedural problems and decided that both adverse findings against Mr Tanner must be quashed. The late submission of an important document had caused unfairness in the hearing of the drug charge. The adverse views expressed by the Disciplinary Committee had then affected the fairness of the hearing on the welfare charge.  Applying the Porter v Magill [2002] AC 357 test for apparent bias, the Appeal Board found that an independent observer might conclude that the adverse credibility finding might have impacted on the decision on welfare. 

The Board remitted both charges to the Disciplinary Committee, leaving it to the GBGB to decide whether to seek further hearings. The Appeal Board accepted that ordinarily two charges could be heard together provided this was not manifestly unjust. Ordinarily the findings should be announced at the same time after hearing all of the evidence.

Thus Mr Tanner’s rights to participate in greyhound racing in Great Britain were restored, and in the event the GBGB did not continue with a re hearing of the charges.

 Gerard Clarke acted for Mr Tanner in the appeal.

 The Appeal Board’s decision can be found here. 

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