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File photo. Leah Farrell/

Dog handler who used live piglet as bait to train greyhounds loses court appeal over ban from racetracks

The appeal from Christopher Connolly was unanimously dismissed from court today.

A DOG HANDLER who used a live piglet as bait to train greyhounds has lost an appeal aimed at overturning his exclusion from racetracks or coursing events.

Christopher Connolly, of Farney’s Cross, Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, brought an appeal against a High Court’s refusal in 2019 to quash a decision by Bord na gCon (Irish Greyhound Board), which regulates greyhound racing in Ireland, to exclude him from events.

The Irish Coursing Club (ICC), which regulates coursing, consented to the exclusion order.

In a judgement delivered today by the three judge appeal court, comprised of Ms Justice Caroline Costello, Ms Justice Ann Power and Mr Justice Brian Murray, unanimously dismissed his appeal.

Arising out of events which occurred when he was living in Australia in 2014, he was the subject of a ban imposed by regulatory authorities in the state of Victoria after he was found guilty of using a piglet as live bait at Tooradin Trial Track.

The ban followed a probe by the Australian authorities into incidents, which were widely publicised, where piglets and rabbits were used as live bait at that track. Ten others involved this activity were also banned.

Connolly received a lifetime ban but this was reduced on appeal in 2015 to five years with another five suspended on condition he is of good behaviour.

Connolly returned to Ireland in 2015 and in 2016 he applied to Bord na gCon for a “Kennelhand Authorisation” which would allow him to work in the industry he has been involved with for many years.

He was refused and he appealed to a Bord na gCon control committee which also found he was “not a fit and proper person to be certified”.

The appeal committee said there was uncontroverted evidence he had pleaded guilty to three offences in Australia “which were barbaric in nature” and there should be no tolerance of such behaviour.

The committee accepted Connolly was involved in the Australian incident to a lesser extent than other participants who were treated more severely than him by the Australian regulators.

He then brought High Court proceedings against the board and the ICC saying the decision was flawed and should be set aside on grounds including that it was unreasonable and irrational.

The High Court rejected his arguments.

In his appeal against that ruling he argued that the investigation conducted by the board was insufficient to allow it make the exclusion order against him.

A further ground of his appeal was that the procedures adopted by the board when hearing his case did not satisfy the requirements of natural and constitutional justice.

The board rejected his arguments and said the High Court decision should be left undisturbed.

Giving the CoA’s decision, Ms Justice Power said she was satisfied that Connolly knew the case he had to meet in the context of the investigation conducted by the board into what had occurred in Australia.

On no occasion throughout the process did he or his lawyers indicate to the board that he disputed any of the findings made by the Australian authorities, at which he was represented, made submissions, and before which he made a recorded pleas of guilty.

The judge added that the court was also satisfied that Connolly had every opportunity to present his case to the board and that he was not deprived of his constitutionally protected right to fair procedures in the context of the board’s investigation.

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Aodhan O Faolain