Jersey families weigh up private legal action

  • Families of three children whose ponies were doped at a show jumping event in Jersey are considering private legal action.

    Tessa Phillips, whose grandson was caught up in the drama, said the small island community was in shock after blood tests of four ponies came back positive for the sedative ACP (acepromazine) last week.

    Allegations hit national headlines that Mrs Kim Baudains, the mother of a fellow competitor, fed ACP tablets and Polo mints to the ponies before the BSJA under-16 final at St Lawrence on 9 September. Mrs Baudains has strongly refuted the allegations.

    The event was immediately cancelled and the BSJA’s Jersey branch is now setting up an independent panel to conduct its own inquiry after the States of Jersey Police dropped the case. The police concluded the doping allegations did not contravene any Jersey laws.

    “The police say no offence has been committed — I don’t understand that,” said Mrs Phillips, whose grandson Timmy Clark, 13, won the rescheduled final.

    Her pony, Flying Sunbeam, who her grandson rides, was one of the four ponies blood tested after police confirmed that a pill found on the ground at the event was ACP.

    Mrs Phillips said the three families whose four ponies were doped and children possibly put at risk had decided to seek legal advice collectively about the possibility of mounting a private legal case.

    “We want to stop this sort of thing ever happening again,” she said. “The children could have been badly hurt. My pony, Flying Sunbeam, was the worst. He was so lethargic. His eyes were drooping and his penis was hanging out.

    “We all suspected something had happened, but now it’s confirmed, the whole community is in a state of shock because we all help each other out.”

    David Wright, a solicitor with London-based law firm Kennedys, said the Jersey scandal raised some intriguing legal questions.

    Mr Wright said that although Jersey police did not view the alleged doping as a criminal offence, from a safety perspective, the deliberate doping of a pony or horse before it competed could be compared to someone tampering with another person’s car.

    He said a private prosecution could be launched under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 or the Criminal Damage Act 1971, with the possibility of a fine, custodial sentence and a prohibition from keeping horses or ponies.

    BSJA Jersey branch chairman Penny Cruttwell said it was possible more than four ponies were doped at the show, adding: “It’s a huge shock and worry to a lot of members and something we want to sort out.”

    Ms Cruttwell said an independent panel would be formed as soon as possible, calling all witnesses at the event to give evidence.

    She said it was not appropriate in this case to follow normal BSJA rules and hold the “person responsible” (owner/rider) accountable for a positive test of a prohibited substance.

    She said if an offence was proved, a likely punishment would involve BSJA membership suspension.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (5 October, ’06)
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