Victoria’s racing integrity commissioner Sal Perna acted without fear or favour in a serious investigation into a cobalt leak that was no “frolic”, a court has heard.
Mr Perna was asked to investigate a very serious integrity matter involving the chairman of Racing Victoria and the disclosure of sensitive information during a wide-ranging inquiry into the misuse of cobalt, his barrister Melinda Richards SC said.
“It’s a very serious allegation,” Ms Richards told the Victorian Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Former Racing Victoria chairman David Moodie wants a judge to overturn Mr Perna’s “devastating” findings against him.
Mr Moodie’s barrister Simon Wilson QC has said Mr Perna reframed a simple request for information about the leak into a full-scale investigation and prosecution of the racehorse owner and breeder.
“This former policeman has gone on an absolute frolic of his own in terms of enlarging it, no doubt perhaps to justify his position or show how important he is,” Mr Wilson told the court on Monday.
Ms Richards said calling it a frolic was a completely unwarranted characterisation of what took place.
She said Mr Perna was an experienced homicide detective before taking on senior roles in the private sector that led to his appointment as racing integrity commissioner.
“My learned friend made some fairly colourful submissions about the person who holds the office in a completely misplaced attempt to personalise the proceeding,” Ms Richards said.
“It was a completely gratuitous attack on the incumbent of the office.”
Ms Richards said as head of a statutory body, Mr Perna is responsible for exercising functions that are not always popular with the people in respect to which they are performed.
“He’s done that without fear or favour in this case and within the bounds of the law,” she said.
Mr Perna determined Mr Moodie, then a RV board member, was not the original source of the January 2015 leak about positive cobalt swabs for horses trained by Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien.
But his December 2016 report found Mr Moodie inappropriately disclosed information to his trainer Peter Moody, compromising or potentially compromising the investigation’s integrity, and misled the Racing Victoria Integrity Council and the RV board about it.
Mr Wilson said Mr Moodie did not name the two other trainers rumoured to have cobalt positives like Mr Moody.