Group 1 jockey Ben Melham has been rubbed out for the autumn after being hit with a five-month disqualification for betting offences.
The Victorian Racing Tribunal (VRT) on Wednesday handed down its decision on the final day of a three-day hearing, with the Golden Slipper winner now unable to ride again until May, 2021.
It will sideline Melham, who sits sixth in the Victorian metropolitan jockeys’ premiership, for both the Melbourne/Sydney autumn carnivals next year.
He avoided a mandatory two-year ban on the opening day of the inquiry when two charges involving having a betting stake in races he was riding in, were withdrawn by Racing Victoria stewards.
However, the 32-year-old did plead guilty to four charges – three for betting offences and one for providing false evidence. A fter penalty submissions on Tuesday, he faced the Tribunal on Wednesday to hear his fate.
Jockey Ben Melham and partner Karlie Dales. Picture: Adam TaylorSource:News Corp Australia
The betting charges related to transactions between March 27 and May 19, 2019, where Melham placed bets totalling $17,600 on races through his partner Karlie Dales’ account.
Racing Victoria stewards had been pushing for an eight-month disqualification for the jockey while the legal team representing Melham were of the belief that a suspension was more appropriate.
The VRT handed down a five-month ban after some confusion at the beginning of proceedings saw the panel stand down just minutes in.
VRT chairman John Bowman was forced to adjourn matters to review their penalty submission when it was discovered crucial details of charge 2 had been misinterpreted.
It involved a day on the punt where 20 bets totalling a whopping $14,600 were placed on races throughout Australia on March 30, 2019 after Melham had initially placed $3000 into Dales’ betting account.
The VRT were of the understanding that Melham spent the day betting at the Mornington Hotel, where the deposit occurred, however this was not the case and there was no evidence to suggest Melham had placed the bets at the pub.
Ben Melham won the Golden Slipper on She Will Reign in 2017. Picture: Jenny EvansSource:News Corp Australia
The tribunal viewed charge two as the most serious of the four offences and Bowman later confirmed the change of interpretation had impacted the original penalty they had imposed.
When they reconvened, Melham was handed a three-month disqualification for the charge.
He was issued a pair of one-month disqualifications for charges 1 & 3, which involved one-off bets during the same period.
Both one month sentences will be served concurrently with charge 2.
The charge under AR 232(i) for false evidence saw Melham given a further two-month disqualification by the Tribunal however it will be served cumulatively.
A similar charge against Dales was withdrawn on day one of the hearing.
Bowman said the tribunal took into account the fact that Melham was injured at the time of the betting offences, his overall character and guilty pleas when making their decision.
It’s taken close to eight months for the verdict to be handed down with difficulties created by COVID-19 adding to the lengthy process.
Originally published asMelham rubbed out for five months
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