Last month’s news that a former trainer of greyhounds attached to Wimbledon stadium has been sentenced to four months in prison following his plea of guilty to an offence under the Gambling Act 2005 - administering cyclyine - reminded me of various appearances in greyhound cases. Generally, they weren’t shining examples of my talent.
The least successful was when, early in my career and flush from prosecuting shoplifters, I was instructed to prosecute a man who, it was alleged, had fiddled the Tote at a local track. I was never good at mathematics and it was a lesson not to undertake cases beyond one’s abilities. It was only after I finished cross-examining that I twigged how he had done it. Not guilty.
In mitigation the Tote supervisor at the track hadn’t worked it out either, but I was never asked to prosecute for them again.
I once appeared for a co-defendant in the case of a man who, rather unwisely, called himself ‘The King of the Dopers’ and was charged with doping. Unfortunately, at the committal proceedings I made a successful submission of no case to answer for my client, so depriving myself of the fees from a six-week trial in the days when the fees from a six-week trial were worth having.
It is very useful to bookmakers to know that in a six-dog race the favourite and one other will run what is known as ‘dead’. So dogs have been got at in many ways – substituting a better dog for an inferior one, giving them doped meat or a drink before racing, not exercising them properly, putting rubber bands around their paws. In Australia, weighted muzzles were popular. A case I remember there was of a man who, in order to nobble the favourite, had somehow managed to nail a sausage to the inside of the dog’s trap. Unsurprisingly it declined to race.
I did defend one elderly trainer for some offence unconnected with the sport. It was a question of mitigation and together we totted up his earnings and outgoings. On the Micawber principle, he was over-spending a shilling (5p) in every pound, something which had gone on for years. I asked him how he managed. He almost leered when he replied: ‘Well, sir, it’s like this. Once a fortnight one of them dogs runs just for me.’
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor