The Supreme Court has confirmed a High Court decision that the Turf Club is amenable to judicial review and that holders of licences from the Turf Club are not prohibited from challenging the validity of the Rules of Racing.

Background

This case arose from a decision by the Turf Club to investigate alleged breaches of the Rules of Racing (which are formulated by the Turf Club) against a professional jockey and a licenced racehorse trainer, who it was alleged had in effect “pulled” a horse to ensure that it would not place in a particular race. The jockey and the trainer sought a judicial review of the Turf Club decision in the High Court. The High Court, while holding that the Turf Club could be subject to judicial review, found that the jockey and the trainer had not established any grounds to allow the Court to rule in their favour. Both the Turf Club and the jockey and the trainer appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Turf Club argued that it should not be amenable to judicial review and that, since the jockey and the trainer had agreed to abide by the Rules of Racing as a condition of the grant of their respective licences, they were prevented from challenging the constitutional validity of the Rules. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, noting that, although the Turf Club had not been established by legislation, it had been brought into the domain of public law by way of the Irish Horseracing Industry Act 1994. Accordingly, it’s decisions after 1994 were amenable to judicial review and the jockey and the trainer were not prevented from bringing proceedings to challenge the Rules.

However, the Court also rejected a claim by the jockey and the trainer that the making of the Rules of Racing contravened the exclusive law-making power of the Oireachtas as set out in the Constitution, concluding that prior to the 1994 Act the Turf Club made and enforced the Rules of Racing as a matter of private contract, pursuant to the terms of the licences it granted. The jockey and the trainer were bound by their agreement with the Turf Club (i.e. their licences) and therefore by law. The Supreme Court also dismissed a claim that the disciplining by the Turf Club of persons involved in horseracing amounted to the administration of justice by a body other than the courts, in contravention of the Constitution.

Conclusion

While the jockey and the trainer were not successful in their action to overturn the decision of the Turf Club, this case has clarified that the Turf Club is amenable to judicial review and has the power to make and enforce the Rules of Racing. The decision may also have broader application to other bodies that, although not established under statute, have a certain level of statutory authority.