A senior partner at an international firm is embroiled in a saga about the appearance of bias due to his dual role in horseracing disciplinary cases.
Matthew Lohn (pictured), a senior partner in the London office of Fieldfisher, has sat as a member of the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) disciplinary panel for 11 years and as a chair since 2008.
But it has emerged that in October 2013 the BHA instructed Lohn to provide paid-for advice on issues unrelated to his work as a panel member.
This work involved cases where individuals were found in breach of the rules of racing and the panel imposed a penalty.
Two of the cases dismissed appeals from a decision of the racecourse stewards and confirmed the penalties, while the other five concerned individuals found in breach where a penalty was imposed.
The BHA has conceded the ‘possibility of asserting an appearance of bias’ arises from its failure to draw attention to the fact that Lohn had been instructed to do unrelated work.
The authority also states there are no grounds for asserting any actual bias exists in these cases.
The Guardian reported in May that a finding of guilt against the trainer Jim Best would have to be quashed because of the possible appearance of bias. The BHA has now confirmed the extent of the cases which may be in dispute.
The organisation has written to individuals who were party to any one of the seven cases involved, but has not revealed how many have responded.
Leading counsel Ian Mill QC has been engaged to carry out a review of all cases in which Lohn sat as a panel member since October 2013.
Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said: ‘We are acting fairly, responsibly and proactively to deal with this matter and to address issues arising from a small number of past cases involving Matthew Lohn.
‘We will provide support and guidance to anyone who decides to come forward to discuss any concerns that they might have and how best to resolve them.’
Fieldfisher has not responded to the Gazette’s request for a comment. The SRA has confirmed it is aware of the issue and will look at all information available before deciding on ‘appropriate action’.