A greyhound trainer who had his dogs baited with live rabbits before becoming a steward charged with policing the industry had a “crisis of conscience” in his new job, a court has heard.
Norman Becroft, a former policeman, had a record as a successful trainer before he took the job as a steward for the sport’s regulatory body, Greyhound Racing NSW.
On Wednesday the special commission of inquiry into the NSW greyhound industry heard part of Mr Becroft’s race-day preparations was to take his dogs for “fine-tuning” at two western Sydney “bullring” training tracks.
Fine-tuning, the court heard, involved the dogs chasing a live rabbit tied as a lure to a moving arm on the track.
Sometimes the greyhounds were muzzled. Other times the muzzle came off so the dog could have “a bit of a chew”.
The Becrofts started the practice around 2010 at a bullring owned by a trainer dubbed “Mr X”, due to a court suppression of his name.
It continued at the bullring of another trainer, Bruce Carr, after the Becrofts fell out with Mr X over a dog that died.
Mr Becroft and his greyhound trainer wife, Tracey, were both called to give evidence at the inquiry.
Ms Becroft at first told the court her husband had never been aware of what happened at the bullrings, then changed her evidence after a warning from counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Rushton SC, about giving false evidence.
“I may have told him,” she said, before agreeing he did know of the practice.
Commissioner Michael McHugh asked Mr Becroft if he had suffered “a crisis of conscience, knowing what was going on it the industry”.
“Absolutely,” Mr Becroft replied.
“The live baiting, it gets to you and my wife and I realised at that point that we were heading down the wrong path.”
Mr Becroft said he quit his job as a steward without notice two weeks ago because it became too difficult but he wanted to improve the greyhound industry.
He said he worked long hours as the sole steward at race meetings, had little training and had no system for recording offences.
“You feel like you are in a rowboat against a tidal wave,” he said.
Bruce Carr also faced the commission on Wednesday and said he had used rabbits for live baiting at his bullring but stopped about two years ago.
Mr Carr said rabbits found on his property by GRNSW and RSPCA inspectors in February this year belonged to his son, who was breeding them for eating.
A second trainer named by three trainers as someone who operated a live-baiting ring, Harry Sarkis, also told the court that rabbits found at his property were either pets for his grandchildren or for him to eat.
Mr Sarkis said the rabbits he bought on occasion from an unknown man at Appin greyhound track were for eating.
“I bring them home, the ones that die I put in the freezer for the dog and the ones that live I neck them and I eat them,” he told the court.
“I’m not going to sit here and be accused of something I didn’t do.”