Doncaster Stadium – John Watson and Andrew Watson. This adjourned inquiry concerns the behaviour of John Watson, a former official at Doncaster stadium, and his brother Andrew Watson, a kennel hand. It was originally scheduled for the end of April 2020, but had to be adjourned due to the Covid crisis. Today’s hearing was conducted by video link.The GBGB case is that on 7 April John Watson acted in a manner which delayed treatment and caused unnecessary suffering to HONOUR FOX, a greyhound owned and trained by professional trainer Adrian McPherson. It is further alleged that on the same day both John and Andrew Watson assaulted Adrian McPherson in the car park at Doncaster stadium and later the same day threatened him at his kennels, which are premises licensed by GBGB.Neither John nor Andrew Watson attended the inquiry. They were not represented. John Watson was unable to attend as he is a serving prisoner. By a letter dated 7 April.
Andrew Watson indicated he would not be attending the April inquiry. John Watson failed to respond to the initial calling in letter. GBGB sent letters dated 23 October 2020 informing John and Andrew Watson of the date of the rescheduled inquiry. The company secretary of Doncaster stadium responded on behalf of John Watson stating that he could not attend but could provide statements. A further letter dated 12 November confirmed that John Watson was aware of the inquiry. He has been afforded the opportunity to provide any written materials he considers relevant to the inquiry, but nothing has been received. Andrew Watson was chased for a response by a further letter dated 25 November 2020. There is no doubt that he received that letter. He has not responded in any way.Louis Weston, counsel for GBGB, urged the Disciplinary Committee to proceed in the Watsons’ absence. The committee agreed to do so. There was no doubt that both brothers were aware of the inquiry and had simply chosen not to engage or play any part therein. In particular there was no application by John Watson for an adjournment. Had there been the committee’s task might have been more difficult, but as it was the committee was completely satisfied that both John and Andrew Watson had wilfully refused to engage with the process. The committee was also mindful that the alleged breaches took place more than 18 months ago. A delay until John Watson was released from prison would push the inquiry back to late 2022 or early 2023. Such a delay might cause evidence to be lost or degraded as the witnesses’ memories faded. Further, the committee had no confidence that such a delay would achieve any useful result given the Watsons’ refusal to engage. In those circumstances the committee agreed to proceed in their absence.Louis Weston submitted that in the absence of the Watsons or their representative there was no challenge to the GBGB evidence, and the committee could therefore rely upon the witness statements and other documentary evidence which had been prepared. The committee largely agreed with that approach. It did however hear oral evidence from Adrian McPherson and Francisco Botet who was the track vet at Doncaster on 7 April 2019, both of whom it considered to be honest witnesses doing their best to help the committee.Based on that evidence the Disciplinary Committee made the following findings on a balance of probability. On the morning of 7 April 2019 Adrian McPherson took a number of greyhounds including HONOUR FOX to an unlicensed track at Askern near Doncaster to school them. During the schooling session HONOUR FOX broke a wrist. The greyhound was in severe distress and obviously needed veterinary assistance. Attempts were made to telephone a vet but without success. The person in charge of the unlicensed track then reminded Mr McPherson that there was a meeting that morning at Doncaster stadium. Mr McPherson had been attached to Doncaster stadium and the circumstances of his departure had caused some ill feeling between him and the Watson brothers which led to him being banned from the stadium. With the benefit of hindsight, he accepted that his decision to go to Doncaster was unwise.Once at Doncaster stadium he drove in past security without authority, the gates having been opened to let another trainer out. He then went to the vet’s room. The vet administered painkillers, although these seem not to have been particularly effective, and advised that the greyhound need to be euthanased. At that point a track official reported to John Watson that Mr McPherson was present. John Watson came to the vet’s room where he demanded that Mr McPherson remove the dog from the premises. He also instructed the vet to cease treating the greyhound under threat of not being employed again. The vet told Mr McPherson to take his dog to his van. He did so and as soon as he was able the vet came and euthanased the greyhound.Following the euthanasia of the greyhound Mr McPherson was instructed to return to the vet’s room. He did so and there was a scuffle between him and John Watson in the course of which John Watson said, ‘you’ll be leaving Doncaster tonight and we will be down at your yard later.’ Mr McPherson then left to go to his van where Andrew Watson appeared and started shouting at him. He was then grabbed by John Watson and punched in the face. Then Andrew Watson joined in and also started punching him. He was forced to the ground and the attack continued until Terri Leech, a trainer at Doncaster, intervened allowing Mr McPherson to get into his van and leave.At about 6.00pm the same day Mr McPherson was at his yard when the Watsons appeared at the end of his drive. Mr McPherson drove up to them. John was calm and said he just wanted to speak, but Andrew was very agitated and threatened to kill Mr McPherson, who picked up a pitchfork and told them to leave. Andrew Watson then put on a ski mask and grabbed a baseball bat from their pickup and climbed over a wall towards Mr McPherson. They then threatened him and told him to “go back to Scotland” before driving off. Based on the above events the Disciplinary Committee found John Watson to be in breach of rules 152(i) and (ii) and rule 174 (xi) of the GBGB rules of racing. His actions significantly delayed the treatment of HONOUR FOX subjecting the greyhound to unnecessary and completely avoidable suffering.The committee did not find any breach of rule 2 (ensuring the needs of a greyhound for which they are responsible are met) because John Watson was not ‘responsible’ for the greyhound within the meaning of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.The Disciplinary Committee found both brothers to be in breach of rules 152 (i) and (ii), 174 (xii) and 174 (xiii) of the GBGB rules of racing by deliberately beating up Mr McPherson at Doncaster stadium and later travelling together to his yard and threatening him.The least penalty the Disciplinary Committee felt it could impose was that John Watson and Andrew Watson be warned off for an indefinite period. John Watson’s indifference to the suffering of HONOUR FOX was extremely serious. Greyhound welfare, which should be the first consideration of any licensed person, played no part in John Watson’s thinking or behaviour that day. Someone who shows such a callous indifference to a suffering animal and indeed significantly prolongs its suffering has no place in the sport of greyhound racing.Likewise, both John and Andrew Watson’s behaviour towards Mr McPherson both at Doncaster stadium and at his yard was inexcusable is totally intolerable. A greyhound stadium should be a safe place where racegoers can enjoy themselves. Physical violence, threats, and intimidation, especially on GBGB licensed premises, cannot be allowed. The Disciplinary Committee is mindful that these are the first breaches recorded against John and Andrew Watson, but they have showed absolutely no remorse for their behaviour. Indeed, they continued to deny any wrongdoing in the face of the evidence, which necessitated this inquiry. In those circumstances the Disciplinary Committee order each of them to pay £7,000 towards the costs incurred by GBGB, a total of £14,000.
Hare Controller S. Pitts, J. Wrenn, R. Watson, N. Sheppard, J. Saunders, A. Morley.
Veterinary Surgeons H. Smyly (MRCVS), A. Simpson (MRCVS), C. Savage (MRCVS), V. Wilson (MRCVS), H. Washbrook (MRCVS), N. Shaw (MRCVS), C. O’Neill (MRCVS), F. Botet-Gomez, D. Hollinshead, L. Turner, H. McHale-Owen, A. Stauffer, S. Widdowson, S. Herron, J. Saunders.
Local Stewards J. Wrenn, K. Cheadle, J. Haver, C. Chorlton, M. Lee, S. Saunders, J. Saunders , A. Morley, J. Hinchliffe-Covel, J. Tobin.
Paddock Stewards J. Wrenn, S. Newman, R. Nurse, T. Watson, S. Saunders, J. Saunders, J. Hinchliffe-Covel, J. Tobin.
Security Officers R. Nurse.
Head of Security R. Nurse.
Starters J. Wrenn, S. Saunders, J. Hinchliffe-Covel.
Welfare Officer K.L. Cheadle.
Rehoming Officer J. Moody.
Judges R. Watson, N. Sheppard, S. Saunders, J. Saunders, A. Morley.
Timekeepers R. Watson, N. Sheppard, S. Saunders, J. Saunders, A. Morley
At a local inquiry held by the Area Stipendiary Steward on 5th May 2021, Doncaster Stadium were cautioned and fined £100 for a breach of Rules 108 & 152 (i) in respect of the running of OPTIC JIMMY on 6th March 2021 without the previous Irish formlines shown on the racecard
OPTIC JIMMY At a local inquiry held by the Area Stipendiary Steward on 5th May 2021, professional greyhound trainer Mr G Foot’s explanation was accepted in respect of the improved performance of the greyhound OPTIC JIMMY at Doncaster Stadium on 21st March 2021.
Opening at 10/11 and starting at 4/6, the greyhound had won a 450m race recording a calculated time of 27.53 seconds as compared with its best recent time of 28.08 seconds recorded in a Trial on 21st February 2021.