BBC set to expose 'biggest racing scandal in 50 years' - Press Gazette

BBC set to expose 'biggest racing scandal in 50 years'

Panorama has won the right to use letters from top bookmaker Victor Chandler

A BBC Panorama investigation that claims to expose the biggest corruption scandal in horse racing for more than 50 years will air later next month after being held up in court since May.

The programme, investigating alleged race fixing, will now broadcast on 6 October, four months after the Jockey Club won a High Court injunction against its former security chief, Roger Buffham, to stop the BBC broadcasting confidential material it had obtained.

The programme was given the green light when a High Court judge ruled last week that Panorama could use material from 20 documents out of a total of 80 retained by Buffham when he left the organisation last August.

"I think it will be the biggest corruption scandal in horse racing since the Second World War," said Panorama producer Stephen Scott. "The Jockey Club certainly has questions to answer about its effectiveness in regulating horse racing."

The BBC, which hired Buffham as a consultant, went to court to vary the injunction that prevented the programme using key material it had obtained about alleged race fixing, horse doping and bribing of jockeys.

The documents include letters from bookmaker Victor Chandler to trainers Jimmy Fitzgerald and Gay Kelleway, parts of an investigation by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and a police document about an investigation into infiltration of racing by Triad gangs called Operation Shantung.

Chandler’s legal bid to have returned to him documents seized during a police raid on his London office, and obtained by Panorama, failed in July.

The BBC has claimed this an important legal victory because the ruling in the SpyCatcher case had established the precedent that an injunction against one party was binding on others who knew of it.

In concluding after the two-day hearing that the disclosure of the information was in the public interest, Mr Justice Gray ruled that, although a temporary injunction would be binding on the BBC, a final ruling was not.

"The law is developing at an incredible rate and in this case the right to publish where there is a public interest has prevailed," said Scott. "Unlike newspapers, we as broadcasters can never publish and be damned, but this is an important decision for investigative journalism."

Scott, who worked on Carlton’s Cook Report, said Buffham’s contribution to the programme had been "absolutely crucial".

"In Roger we have a very serious-minded whistleblower, a very thoughtful man who is held in great respect," said Scott. "The BBC has had to fight two legal battles because the racing industry has been so determined to prevent these allegations being broadcast."

Scott, who said Channel 4 had been following the story, said the BBC had shown its commitment to current affairs by supporting the programme.

Panorama editor Mike Robinson said the High Court decision "underlines Panorama’s commitment to serious investigative journalism and the BBC’s support for the programme".

By Julie Tomlin