Jockey jailed in tips-for-bets scandal to appeal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2007, 12:00am

The new legal team behind jailed Australian jockey Chris Munce has said it will appeal against the 30-month sentence handed down in March for his role in a 'tips-for-bets' scandal.

Munce sacked his original defence team after the decision of Judge Kevin Browne went against him, and he has formed a new team headed by solicitor Mark Side, of Tanner de Witt.

Mr Side instructed barrister Graham Harris, of Liberty Chambers, when the jockey made a lengthy but unsuccessful application for bail, pending appeal, last week.

Munce's wife Cathy and the lawyers have refused interviews but issued a statement clarifying their intention to appeal.

'After a lengthy bail application, which was turned down by the Hong Kong court [last week], legal issues will be vetted further on appeal,' the statement said.

'It is noted that there is no application by the prosecution to review Chris' sentence.

'Legal sources in Hong Kong have indicated that on the facts of this case, the chances of Chris' sentence being increased on appeal are remote.'

The lawyers are understood to be basing their appeal on what they perceive as errors in law in the findings made by Judge Browne, including wrongly branding the jockey 'an agent' and 'misunderstanding the business of racing'.

In a surprise outside move, the Australian Racing Board (ARB) has declared itself prepared to lobby the federal government to have Munce sent home to serve his penalty should the appeal process fail.

ARB chief executive Andrew Harding said such an approach was one possibility, 'but it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss what course of action we would take until we have spoken with Chris Munce's family and his legal team'.

Munce has been in jail since being found guilty in March of involvement in the tips-for-bets scam after an investigation by the Independent Commission against Corruption.

Judge Browne found him guilty of a charge under the Bribery Ordinance of accepting an advantage while operating as an agent. He provided tips to a businessman through a middleman and was rewarded with cash payments of almost HK$1 million.

The rider had been due to leave Hong Kong in July at the end of the racing season when he was arrested outside the Royal Garden Hotel, in Tsim Sha Tsui East, with HK$250,000 cash in his pockets after meeting a businessman, Andy Lau Wai-ching.

Prosecutors said during the trial that Munce provided tips to Mr Lau 17 times, covering races involving 29 horses from December 2005 to May 2006, and that Mr Lau paid Munce through a middleman.

The jockey's sentence could be increased if he loses his appeal. The maximum sentence is seven years.