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Horse Racing: Now it's the defence's turn to do the pummelling.

Byline: David Ashforth watches as the defence counsel take the stand at the Old Bailey

UNDER the rules of the British judicial system, the combatant barristers face each other in a ring, known as the courtroom.

Barrister A remains still and largely silent, while barrister B gives him a thorough pummelling, after which barrister A's case looks rather unpromising. Then the roles are reversed, after which it is barrister B's case that gives cause for concern. In court 12, Jonathan Caplan QC, for the prosecution, has pummelled away for two days, and now it is Peter Kelson QC's and John Kelsey-Fry QC's turn for a spot of return pummelling. The other four defence counsel have opted to pummel later.

Kelson, acting for Miles Rodgers, is well equipped for pummelling, possessing two particularly active hands. He spreads the fingers of his left hand, then opens his palms before turning his hand into a fist. While his hands are making their point, Kelson invites the jurors to take the word 'guilty' and preface it with the word 'not', advising them to treat anything a police officer called Manning says with a large pinch of salt.

Kelson produces a plethora of figures to place his client's betting on the 27 allegedly fixed races into context. The context he places it in is that of a professional gambler who, between January 2002 and December 2004, placed bets on 8,215 events, including Big Brother and Pop Idol, and won pounds 169,828, but not on the 27 events under scrutiny, on which he managed to lose pounds 278,067.86. If Rodgers was involved in a conspiracy, it was a particularly hopeless one.

Kelson's hands exert a certain fascination. He holds them both palm down, then clasps them in front of his chest; he points with the index finger of his left hand, then sweeps his right hand across his body. I wonder if he plays the piano? I'd be a backer, Rodgers might be a layer.

Sometimes, Kelson uses his hands to grasp nettles, or to describe others grasping nettles. It's infectious. "To use your expression," says Mr Justice Forbes, "we should grasp the nettle." But not for long, for Kelson is conscious of taking up the court's time, confesses to taking longer than he expected, and determines to be brief. Whereas in common parlance, 'brief' is understood to mean 'of short duration', the legal definition is rather different, indicating an intention, possibly over-optimistic, to stop before nightfall.

Kelson sits down, and Kelsey-Fry, acting for Kieren Fallon, stands up. Kelsey-Fry is an accomplished advocate and a formidable adversary. Whereas others' wigs are cut straight across the forehead, his reaches down to a point between his expressive eyebrows, although that may not explain his ability. Kelsey-Fry approaches his task bearing an expression of pained, barely suppressed outrage. The allegations against Fallon are "simply ridiculous", the prosecution case is riddled with "absurdities", the evidence that he stopped any horse non-existent, while there is "a plethora of evidence that, when needed to, he didn't". Here was a man driven by the desire to win, arguably the greatest jockey of his generation, chasing his seventh championship title, recording a better strike-rate during the period when he was supposedly busy stopping horses than during other periods, and a man who actually won five of the 17 allegedly fixed races where he was the jockey, at a cost to Rodgers of pounds 557,000. The prosecution, said Kelsey-Fry, had no credible explanation for the occasions on which Fallon won when he was supposed to have lost, while the defence had plenty of evidence of Fallon riding at his brilliant best in order to win races he could easily have lost.

"The Crown is trying to explain the inexplicable," he said, his expression one of outraged dismissal. Where Kelson has nettles, Kelsey-Fry has eggs. "What's that got to do with the price of eggs?" he asks, in challenging tones. There is no reply. Maybe there isn't an egg expert in court.

KELSEY-FRY leans on one elbow, head slightly tilted, and focuses on the jury. He modulates the tone and volume of his delivery. There are, however, two areas of concern; the areas beneath his eyes.

Perhaps Kelsey-Fry has been reading too many legal papers, or maybe he stayed up to watch the Buffalo Bills play the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. At 3.30pm, he sits down, and David O'Reilly, of Betfair, smartly dressed, concise, steps up as the first of many witnesses. Caplan takes him, painstakingly, through an explanation of how a betting exchange works.

It is going to be slow going. Let's hope everyone gets to bed early.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 11, 2007
Words:780
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