Any idea that horse racing’s weighing room is a jovial and jocular place has been well and truly destroyed amid the staggering revelations of the Bryony Frost vs Robbie Dunne case.
After more than a week of evidence gathering and deliberation, a BHA panel has found Dunne guilty of four counts of bullying and harassment against the 26-year-old, stating that they believe he engaged in ‘conduct prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing by bullying and harassing a fellow jockey.’
The BHA’s press team took to Twitter to confirm the verdict, before revealing that Dunne’s punishment was still being considered.
Following a hearing of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Mr Dunne has been found in breach of four counts of Rule (J)19. A decision on penalty will follow.
— BHA Press Office (@BHAPressOffice) December 9, 2021
The landmark case, heard in person at the London HQ of the British Horseracing Authority, brings an end to a sordid episode that dates back to February 2020 – when the first of Frost’s accusations against Dunne took place.
The six-day hearing was chaired by Brian Barker, and after detailing the panel’s findings he delivered the verdict that Dunne had coordinated a ‘deliberate’ bout of bullying and harassment towards the female jockey.
“This progressed from distasteful targeting to deliberate harassment both on and off the course, including occasional cases of dangerous bullying [on the course],” he confirmed.
Barker also claimed that Frost had ‘broken a code’ in which jockeys and other staff in the weighing room did not speak out about personal issues, and that the isolation and rejection she had suffered as a result – confirmed by the 26-year-old herself – was equally as painful.
A Year of Misery
The conclusion of the case draws a line under the suffering Frost has endured for over a year, and while it may take time for weighing room friendships to be rekindled, she will hopefully feel as though some form of justice has been achieved.
As for Dunne, he will be punished and quite severely, you suspect, given the high-profile nature of the case. The BHA will want to show clearly and unequivocally that bullying will not be tolerated in racing.
A number of fellow jockeys and racing insiders had been called to give evidence during the hearing, including Gavin Sheehan – he described Dunn as a ‘p*** taker’ and somebody who believed that their opinion was ‘to be heeded’ on racing matters. The veteran might need a re-think on his modus operandi going forward.
The BHA panel admitted their sympathy towards Dunne, for whom the catalogue of harassment began when his horse Cillian’s Well suffered a fatal fall at Southwell. His immediate abuse of Frost was considered an emotion-led response – but that does not excuse the hatred that came before and after the incident.
By threatening physical harm to a fellow jockey in an already dangerous sport, Dunne crossed the line. This case has blown open the ‘coercive’ weighing room culture, and the hope is that this whole episode will bring about a positive change in Dunne and horse racing in general.