Darren Weir’s lawyers call on magistrate to drop conspiracy charge
Melbourne Cup-winning horse trainer Darren Weir must wait until later this month before he learns if he's to stand trial on charges of conspiring to cheat racing officials and animal cruelty offences.
Mr Weir, 50, sat at the end of a long table, flanked by three lawyers, as he and three other racing figures appeared remotely before Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday, for more legal submissions in their case. Magistrate Ron Saines is yet to rule on committing the four men to trial.
Darren Weir outside court last year.Credit:Jason South
Mr Weir, his right-hand man and fellow trainer Jarrod McLean, 39, and stablehand Tyson Kermond, 32, are accused of conspiring to cheat and defraud Racing Victoria officials over an illegal training regime they allegedly used on racehorses Red Cardinal, Yogi and Tosen Basil in the weeks before the 2018 Melbourne Cup. Red Cardinal ran in the Cup but finished last.
The three men are accused of using electric shock devices known as "jiggers", poly piping, blinkers and whistling on the horses at Warrnambool in what charge sheets allege was conduct that tortured, abused, overworked and terrified the horses and caused them unreasonable pain and suffering.
Mr McLean is also charged with placing bets on the racehorses and encouraging others to do so. A fourth man, retired jockey William Hernan, 32, is charged with putting a $50 bet on Yogi in a race when he allegedly knew of the training regime.
On Thursday, Mr Weir's lawyers called on the magistrate to strike out and not commit their client to trial on the conspiracy charge, as they argued that because racing stewards weren't public officials they couldn't be the victims of a conspiracy.
Jarrod McLean.Credit:Jason South
Defence counsel Ian Hill, QC, said the stewards were more like AFL umpires than public officials, and that even if Mr Weir broke the rules of racing that did not mean he had committed a criminal offence.
Mr Weir, who trained 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance, and Mr McLean are currently suspended from training horses.
Prosecutor Melissa Mehady said the stewards weren't acting as private individuals but were exercising a public duty when they were allegedly deceived.
Defence lawyers for the three other charged men adopted Mr Hill's submissions.
Mr Saines said he had to consider the written and oral arguments put to him and will return on October 19 to announce whether the four men are to stand trial in the County Court.
The charged men are all on bail.
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