VCAT Adjourns Amid Matthews Evidence Doubt: Racing.Com 9/9/16

By: Andrew Eddy

The cobalt appeal hearing of Flemington trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh will turn to the matter of the availability of Dr Adam Matthews when it resumes on September 19.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Justice Greg Garde adjourned proceedings late Friday afternoon for a further 10 days following evidence taken from local and international expert witnesses on cobalt as a possible performance-enhancer.

But it was the matter of Matthews that had earlier dominated proceedings. The appeal heard that Matthews is suffering a significant mental disorder and will be at risk of self-harm if he is ordered to give evidence.

Nicole Spicer, representing Matthews at the appeal, told Justice Garde that her client is currently hospitalised and suffers ‘from a significant depressive disorder’ where the ‘symptoms reduce his cognitive processes’.

“He has mental health problems,” she told the appeal. “He suffers a significant psychological or psychiatric disorder that requires on-going treatment.”

Justice Garde read through an affidavit from Racing Victoria’s legal team requesting Matthews be made to attend the appeal to answer questions about his alleged involvement in the cobalt scandal that saw both trainers receive lengthy disqualifications.

Justice Garde ruled that when the cobalt appeal recommences on Monday, September 19, he will receive arguments as to whether Matthews can be excused from giving evidence at the proceedings or whether a warrant for his arrest is to be issued so as to make him appear.

Banned former Flemington Equine Clinic vet Dr Tom Brennan – who has admitted giving a vitamin mix containing cobalt to horses prepared by the two Flemington trainers – has alleged Matthews, who was then a junior partner in the clinic, supplied him with the vitamin complex bottle that was ultimately found to have contained cobalt.

But in May, Racing NSW found Matthews not guilty on appeal of all charges relating to cobalt in theSam Kavanagh case.

Spicer told the appeal that Matthews was happy to have an independent evaluation of his condition supplied to the tribunal but that his current doctor has denied access to him as she has ruled him unfit to be examined by a third party.

Spicer said that as Racing NSW had ruled that he did not supply the bottle of vitamin complex to Brennan that: “It is unclear to us why he is regarded as a significant and important witness.”

The affidavit included a reference to Matthews last year taking an overseas holiday but Spicer said the condition that Matthews suffers from manifests itself in different ways and affects people differently and so the fact that he took an overseas holiday is not inconsistent with his disorder where he can be present in social circumstances but ‘nonetheless be significantly distressed’.

Damian Sheales, representing the trainers, told the appeal that he would support a move for a ‘bedside sitting’ so as Matthews can give evidence without having to leave the medical facility where he currently resides.

The appeal will continue on September 19 when Justice Garde will determine whether Matthews will be forced to give evidence. There are four more September dates marked for the appeal, with that time expected to be taken up by the appearances on the witness stand of both O’Brien and Kavanagh.