Race fixing charge dropped

The Crown has dropped a race fixing charge against harness racing trainer-driver Nigel Raymond McGrath, and another man has admitted three drugs charges arising from the Operation Inca investigation.

The race fixing allegation was the only charge the 45-year-old Rolleston man McGrath faced as part of the police’s Operation Inca inquiry into racing industry figures last year.

Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave dismissed the charge and McGrath was able to walk away. He had no name suppression, but one aspect of the case remains suppressed.

Prosecutor Karyn South told the court the Crown believed there was enough evidence but the “public interest test was not met” and the Crown would offer no evidence.

Defence counsel Pip Hall QC asked for the case to be dismissed under section 147 of the Criminal Procedures Act and Judge Neave made that order.

Mr Hall said the defence view was that there had never been enough evidence for the charge to proceed.

McGrath had been charged with using deception to manipulate the result of race 11 at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting race meeting at Addington on March 31, 2018, by assisting Sheriff to win the race with the intention of influencing the betting outcome and causing a loss in excess of $1000 to other people, including other participants in the race and those betting on the race.

The Crown dropped one drugs charge against the other man, a 27-year-old shed hand from rural North Canterbury, and he pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of MDMA, known as ecstasy, for supply, and two charges of supplying the same class B drug, all in 2018.

Defence counsel Allister Davis said he would seek a discharge without conviction for the man at his sentencing which has been scheduled for December 11. Because of that, Judge Neave entered no convictions.

Mr Davis said he had learnt that the entry of convictions would prohibit the man from ever going on a racecourse in his life. He would apply for the discharge “because of that consequence”.

The Crown’s summary of facts has not yet been finalised for sending to the judge and the media, but Judge Neave said that should take place next week.

The man has interim name suppression which was continued today.

Ten other people face charges arising from the Operation Inca investigation. Nine of them did not have to appear at court today and were remanded for a pre-trial call-over on December 19. One has been remanded to a date in October.