Irish jockey Robbie Dunne has been banned for 18 months for bullying and harassing female rider Bryony Frost in a disciplinary case that has highlighted the “coercive” weighing-room culture in UK horse racing.
Dunne was found in breach on four counts of conduct prejudicial to horse racing by an independent three-person disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which looked into evidence of his behaviour towards Frost.
Dunne was charged with seven breaches in total. The other three, of violent and threatening behaviour, are yet to be considered. Three months of his 18-month ban are suspended.
The majority of the incidents took place in 2020, when Dunne was found by the panel to have used threatening and misogynistic language towards English rider Frost.
The panel found Dunne guilty of distasteful targeting and deliberate harassment on and off the course, and ruled that there had been “occasional cases of dangerous bullying”.
The BHA said they welcomed the panel’s findings and added that the punishment reflected the seriousness of the case.
Brian Barker, who chaired the panel, said of Dunne: “A course of deliberate conduct over a significant period of time has been revealed.
“This has progressed from distasteful targeting to deliberate harassment on and off the course and onwards to occasional cases of dangerous bullying.”
Barker said Frost had broken the “code” of the weighing room by taking her complaint to authorities, “knowing that her isolation – and rejection by some – was inevitable.”
Barker described the abusive language used towards Frost as “totally unacceptable”.
He also had a “real concern that the weighing-room culture is deep-rooted and coercive and that in itself is not conducive to the development of modern-day race-riding.”
Dunne had denied the four charges of conduct prejudicial to horse racing and two of the three counts of violent or improper behaviour.
Frost is regarded as a trailblazer in British and Irish horse racing. In 2019, she became the first female jockey to win a top-grade race over obstacles at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival.
“I would like to thank every individual including the racing public that has supported me not only during the last couple of weeks but throughout,” she said in a statement on Thursday.
The BHA said in a statement: “By stepping forward to report the behaviour of which she was on the receiving end, Bryony Frost took a courageous step. We hope that others who may be in similar positions will feel comfortable doing the same.”