Harness racer guilty of match fixing

HE WAS one of the state's best harness racing drivers, but Barton Louis Cockburn is unlikely to race anytime soon after pleading guilty to three match fixing charges.

The Crown said Barton's dishonest dabble undermined confidence in the sport, and prison was an option for him.

But the Toowoomba man's lawyer claimed a "fine line" separated gamesmanship from match-fixing in the tight knit industry.

Barton Louis Cockburn
Barton Louis Cockburn John Weekes

At Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Cockburn, 28, pleaded guilty to three charges.

One related to having knowledge of a match-fixing arrangement at a Brisbane race on November 4 last year.

He was charged with sharing knowledge of that arrangement with Michael Kevin Grant.

The court heard Mr Grant had already faced three charges and was fined $1300.

Cockburn also arranged a fix at Albion Park Harness Racing Club in order to benefit from prize money.

And he pleaded guilty to arranging another fix at Albion Park last November in order to get prize money to a third man, Dayl Raymond March.

One of the charges related to Cockburn allegedly using a phone call to discuss how to affect the outcome of a race with another driver.

Cockburn had no prior criminal history.

The court heard the St Mary's College graduate from the class of 2006 followed family tradition by going into the sport.

By 2012, Cockburn was in the top-three bracket of Queensland drivers for the season, and the leading 15 nationally.

Defence lawyer Andrew Hanlon said it was not unusual for competing drivers to discuss tactics before races.

"This is precisely the situation in harness racing in Queensland."

Mr Hanlon said in many races, there might be two or three horses with a real chance of winning and "the rest of them generally there to quite literally make up the numbers."

He said a lifetime of long-term ban from the sport was very likely for his client, who was remorseful and did not deserve jail.

The defence lawyer said the money involved was at the "very very low end" and in one of the the fixed races, the driver only received about $350.

The charges Cockburn faced carried maximum jail terms of ten years but Cockburn's guilty pleas earned him some credit.

He was fined $5000. No conviction was recorded.


Topics:  court crime harness racing match-fixing queensland racing integrity commission

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