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Turf Club security boss awarded €300,000 for defamation by trainers' group

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Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images

Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images

The head of security of the horse racing regulatory body has been awarded €300,000 by a High Court jury against the horse racing trainers' organisation.

Chris Gordon, security head of the Turf Club, now known as the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, had been the subject of an "orchestrated and severe campaign" against his good name by the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA), the jury found.

Mr Gordon claimed he was defamed in a letter about his role in an inspection of the yard of horse trainer Liz Doyle, a daughter of former Fine Gael MEP and TD Avril Doyle, who was also present during the inspection.

Mr Gordon (60) sued the IRTA over a letter from its solicitor to a senior Turf Club steward, which he said falsely alleged he (Mr Gordon) attempted to entrap Liz Doyle into an admission of wrongdoing.

After nearly four hours of deliberation yesterday, the jury found in Mr Gordon's favour in relation to nine of 10 questions it was asked to consider.

The court heard the IRTA's solicitor's letter arose after Ms Doyle's Wexford yard was inspected in March 2014 by Department of Agriculture and Turf Club officials as part of an investigation related to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in racehorses. The Doyles later complained about a document which Mr Gordon had shown them during the inspection.

Subsequently, Mr Gordon said the IRTA defamed him when its chairman Noel Meade, in an interview with 'The Irish Field' in August 2014, was quoted as saying members were angered by the conduct of some officials during inspections carried out at horse trainers' premises as part of this investigation.

Mr Gordon also alleged IRTA committee member Michael Grassick made false claims about Mr Gordon's conduct following complaints from two other trainers.

It was also claimed Mr Meade, Mr Grassick and another IRTA member met with representatives of the Turf Club and maliciously published statements seeking Mr Gordon's removal.

Mr Gordon said the Turf Club held an inquiry, which concluded he had done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, he said he has been restricted in duties since 2015 and effectively "sent to Coventry" when it comes to race meetings.

The IRTA denied the claims.

The jury assessed general damages at €200,000 and aggravated damages at €50,000. It also found Mr Gordon was entitled to exemplary damages of another €50,000.

Irish Independent