Insights into litigation, sports law, media and legal culture

Weir investigation – what are the ‘sporting integrity matters’ in VicPol press release?

Detectives from the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit have executed warrants at properties in the Warrnambool and Ballarat areas this morning as part of an ongoing investigation. The locations are reportedly the training facilities of champion trainer, Darren Weir.

Victoria Police has released a statement concerning the investigation:

The statement says in relation to three unnamed men who have been arrested, “They will now be interviewed in relation to sporting integrity matters including obtain financial advantage by deception, engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of event or event contingency, use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, and attempt to commit indictable offence namely obtain financial advantage by deception.”

So, what are each of these ‘matters’? This post provides a short description of their relevant statutory source, and what they mean in general terms.

Nothing in this post should be construed as a comment on the investigation or any of its participants. At the time of writing, no charges have been laid. 

A. Obtaining financial advantage by deception

Source: Section 82 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) (Crimes Act)

What it means: A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains for himself or another any financial advantage is guilty of an indictable offence.

An indictable offence is generally heard before a judge and jury in the County or Supreme Courts. It is regarded as more serious than a summary offence which is typically dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court.

Penalty: If convicted, to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

The penalty is not the inevitable outcome in the event of a conviction. It refers to the maximum penalty. There are a myriad of sentencing principles which govern the ultimate outcome.  These include the effect of a conviction on a person’s reputation, the level of dishonesty involved, the effect on other people, personal factors leading to any impaired state of mind, and quantum (e.g. in the case of $500, one would expect the penalty to much lower than a dishonesty offence involving appropriation of $20 million).

A deeper dive: The dishonesty element here relates to the obtaining and not to the deception.  The dishonesty relates to obtaining financial advantage.  Deception must also be established, but not dishonest deception. The prosecution must establish that the accused did not believe that he or she had a legal right to the advantage. (See CDPP v Gerathy (Ruling) [2018] VSC 255 per Bell J).

As to the meaning of deception, this is defined in s.81 Crimes Act.  It means any deception (whether deliberate or reckless) by words or conduct as to fact or as to law, including a deception as to the present intentions of the person using the deception or any other person.

B. Engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of event or event contingency

Source: Section 195C Crimes Act

What it means: 

A person must not engage in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency—

(a)          knowing that, or being reckless as to whether, the conduct corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of the event or the event contingency; and

(b)          intending to obtain a financial advantage, or to cause a financial disadvantage, in connection with any betting on the event or the event contingency.

There are a lot of defined terms in this section which I will not repeat, except for this one:

“conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or an event contingency” means conduct that—

(a)          affects or, if engaged in, would or would be likely to affect the outcome of any type of betting on the event or event contingency; and

(b)          is contrary to the standards of integrity that a reasonable person would expect of persons in a position to affect the outcome of any type of betting on the event or event contingency;

Penalty: If convicted, to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

A deeper dive: This section appears under Division 2B which has the heading – “Cheating at gambling”.  It suggests a more direct level of involvement (“engage in conduct”) than the following section, s.195D (“facilitating conduct that corrupts etc”) (the latter section was not referred to by VicPol).

Section 195C was introduced by Parliament in 2013.  The second reading speech of the Crimes Amendment (Integrity in Sports) Act 2013, which introduced the amendment, said of the Act, not just s 195C:

This bill sends a very clear message that the fixing of sporting matches and other events will not be tolerated in Victoria.  It is a key component to the government’s commitment to a strong policy and legislative framework to protect the industry of sports in Victoria, integrity which is vital if the confidence and passion of Victorian sports lovers is to be secured for future generations.”

There are four reported decisions concerning section 195C Crimes Act.  All of them are VCAT harness racing matters.  Simply to illustrate the type of conduct which can be covered by the section, in Bartley, Jack & Pitt v HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board [2018] VCAT 1981 (Deputy President I. Proctor), the charges included people engaging in a deliberate set of activities with each other to manipulate the results of a race at Cobram.  The alleged conduct concerned intentionally setting a fast race and manipulating the field positions of horses.

C. Use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes

Source: Section 195F Crimes Act

What it means: 

(1)          A person who—

(a)          possesses information in connection with an event or event contingency about conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of the event or event contingency; and

(b)          knows that, or is reckless as to whether, the information is about conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of the event or event contingency—

must not, if the information is relevant to the bet—

(c)          bet on the event or event contingency; or

(d)          encourage another person to bet on the event or event contingency in a particular way; or

(e)          communicate the information, or cause the information to be communicated, to another person who the first person knows or ought reasonably to know would, or would be likely to, bet on the event or event contingency.

(2)          In a proceeding for an offence against subsection (1)(d) or (e), it is not necessary to prove that the other person actually bet on the event or event contingency concerned.

Penalty: If convicted,  level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

A deeper dive: There is no reported authority concerning this provision.

D. Attempt to commit indictable offence namely obtain financial advantage by deception

Source: Section 321M Crimes Act

What it means: A person who attempts to commit an indictable offence is guilty of the indictable offence of attempting to commit that offence.

Penalty: It depends, given the generality of the provision.  In any event, the maximum would not exceed the penalty for obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Disclaimer: Whilst Natalie is a board member of the Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners’ Association Inc. (TROA), this post is written in a personal capacity.

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