By: Andrew Eddy
The Racing Victoria legal team was on Wednesday accused of serving as a cat’s paw for a Racing NSW appeal in November over the questioning of Dr Adam Matthews at the cobalt appeal of Flemington trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh at VCAT.
In an often fiery hearing, Robert Richter, QC, who appeared on Wednesday for Matthews, told VCAT president Justice Greg Garde that the stewards were undertaking a coercive process in their questioning with a mind to the upcoming cobalt appeal in NSW that involves Matthews.
Matthews was originally disqualified in NSW for five-and-a-half years over cobalt charges involving trainer Sam Kavanagh and his horse Midsummer Sun before in May this year being cleared of any wrongdoing at his appeal.
Racing NSW then appealed that verdict and the new hearing is to begin in November.
“They are setting traps for his credibility,” Richter said.
Richter’s accusation followed an extended period of queries from RV’s chief counsel Jeff Gleeson, SC, who took Matthews through a list of phone calls to and from his telephone around the time that O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh were charged with cobalt offences in 2015.
Richter’s objection was partly made because of the line of questioning and the fact that Matthews had been summoned from an institution where he is undergoing treatment for mental health issues to answer questions that he termed of little relevance to the current hearing.
Matthews, a former employee of the Flemington Equine Clinic at the time of the cobalt positives in early 2015, consistently denied any knowledge of the vitamin complex mix at the heart of the Flemington trainers’ appeals.
He had been identified by Dr Tom Brennan as being the supplier of the drug that he put into the drips for the horses trained by Kavanagh and O’Brien. But Matthews said that Brennan had used him as his cobalt scapegoat.
Richter was joined in his plea for the endless questioning of Matthews to cease by Damian Sheales, the legal counsel for Kavanagh and O’Brien, who earlier called the tactic ‘a disgrace’.
“It looks like to me like a smash character assassination,” Sheales said. “This witness gives no evidence that assists the stewards at all.
“It’s a disgrace. They pull him out of a mental institution to come and give evidence that he’s already given three times before.”
Despite the sometimes testy hearing, there was one lighter moment when Richter told Garde that his client had expressed some concerns over the length of his evidence towards the end of the day.
“There looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Justice Garde responded.
“It feels like it’s an on-coming train,” Richter returned.
Matthews occupied the stand for the entire sitting on Wednesday, which marked the appeal’s 16thday. There are three more days scheduled next week and Justice Garde said he expected the appeal would need two further days later in October to complete submissions.