Robbie Dunne ban for bullying Bryony Frost reduced to 10 months on appeal

The Guardian
The Guardian
Robbie Dunne at Cheltenham races in December.

Robbie Dunne has had his 18-month suspension for bullying and harassing fellow jockey Bryony Frost reduced to 10 months on appeal.

Dunne had initially been found in breach of four charges in racing’s rules which cover conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of the sport, for a series of incidents between 13 February 2020 and 3 September 2020.

However, despite agreeing that Dunne had been guilty of breaching rule J19, the appeal board chair Anthony Boswood QC felt one breach of the rule, rather than the previous four, covered all the offences.

As the suspension began on 10 December 2021 it will end on 9 October 2022.

In summing up Boswood said: “We wish to make it clear we think Mr Dunne’s behaviour was thoroughly reprehensible and any jockey behaving like that in future must accept serious punishment.

“We think the [original] sentence was, however, very severe, as it represented the minimum entry point six times higher than that for rule J20, which was also charged. We think it was severe given the number of rides Mr Dunne will have lost to date and will lose in the future and this late stage of his career.

“We also think that maybe the disciplinary panel gave insufficient credit for items of mitigation such as his attempted apology after the Stratford race – which Bryony Frost refused to accept, which she was fully entitled to do, and the refusal to take part in the ‘banging of heads’ proposed by Richard Johnson and her father Jimmy Frost at Kempton. Again she didn’t want to participate, a position she was fully entitled to take – but Mr Dunne was prepared to take part.

“So we have decided to reduce the suspension to 10 months.”

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The British Horseracing Authority noted the independent board’s decision to amend the penalty and said it would await the full reasons in relation to that aspect.

The BHA issued a statement which read: “This reduction in penalty in no way diminishes the recognition of the severity of the allegations that were brought against Mr Dunne. Indeed, it continues to send a clear message that conduct of this nature cannot be tolerated in any working environment within our sport.

“Following the original decision last year, the BHA released a statement which outlines our commitment to improving workplace standards, conduct and wellbeing. Work is continuing with industry colleagues to finalise the industry code of conduct, with a view to it going before the BHA Board in the first half of the year. A cross-industry working party has also been formed to look at ways of improving education and awareness around the standards of conduct expected across the sport.

“Once again, we recognise that this has been a challenging period for all involved in this complex and emotive case, and we ask that the privacy and wellbeing of both parties is respected as they continue to receive the support of the appropriate bodies and those close to them.

“We now await the appeal board’s written reasons before we can comment on any of the technicalities around their findings or any other matters associated with the hearing.”

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