KC expels ‘disrespectful’ Alan Hedges
STAFFORDSHIRE Bull Terrier exhibitor Alan Hedges has been expelled by the Kennel Club.
He appeared before a panel of Board members this morning where he was allowed to put his case but the vote to oust him was unanimous.
He said he was told it was because of his Facebook page ‘Bad Judges, Bad Practice’, which called for judges to ‘follow official guidelines and judge breed in the manner expected by exhibitors’, and allowed people to air their grievances.
The KC objected to it at the time and Mr Hedges took the page down.
Subsequently the KC asked him to resign and he refused, calling for a meeting with the entire KC Board, a request which was refused. The panel comprised Keith Young, Paul Rawlings, Steve Croxford, Stan Ford and Ann Bliss.
Mr Hedges told DOG WORLD that the Facebook page was mentioned and discussed and he put the point that bad judging put dogs’ welfare and the rights of exhibitors at stake.
“I think the members of the panel today were some of the people who had brought me to this point, so how could I have got a fair trial,” he said. “They said the page had been disrespectful to judges. I showed them pictures of poor judging and asked them if they thought it was acceptable.”
All of the judges criticised on the page were foreign and Mr Hedges believes the KC is keen not to upset the FCI.
“The FCI runs Clarges Street now,” he said.
In February, another KC member was sacked from two committees and a group. Ian Seath of the Sunsong Dachshunds, who is chairman of the breed council and on its health committee, was ousted from his place on the Disciplinary Sub-Committee, Training Board and Health Group Breed Standards and Conformation Sub-Group for blogging a piece entitled Lies, Damned Lies and Kennel Club Statistics.
In the blog he examined an item in the KC’s online Journal which included a table of statistics claiming to show that holding breed club shows in partnership with championship shows led to a rise in entries. He criticised the statistics and the conclusions drawn from them.
Mr Hedges said: “I think by expelling me they are trying to frighten people into submission.
“What happened to Ian Seath was much worse than what’s happened to me. He is a far more significant figure in the world of dogs and has done a huge amount of work for the dog world, and done so much good, and to be thrown off two committees because of a difference of opinion was terrible.
“I suppose the KC thinks this will make me shut up, ha ha.”
There is no appeal process for Mr Hedges to pursue.
“The KC has done it the wrong way round – normally you would go to the panel and then appeal to the Board, but that hasn’t happened,” he said.
The KC had not commented at the time of going to press.
Mr Hedges gave a statement to the KC which said: “At the heart of this case is whether or not any KC regulations have been breached by my actions and if so, what might be a proportionate disciplinary action that the Board or its delegated sub-committee is authorised to recommend.
“Unless both of those matters can be addressed, any course of action taken by the KC Board can, and will, only be seen by other KC members and the outside world as wholly unfair and a breach of natural justice.
“The absence of an appeal process and the lack of a facility for arbitration on matters such as this seems to be entirely at odds with good governance principles of clubs and companies. The KC Board must be aware of this.
“I have done nothing wrong. I can find no rule, no guideline and no instruction that I have transgressed. I have received a copy of the Board’s complaint and it is full of inaccuracies. However, I can understand why a committee might be alarmed when reading the accusations.
“The KC has no guidelines that I could have referred to when setting up the Facebook group and, in the KC letter, reference is made to this rather large hole in the rules. The site was in favour of good judging and replicates the requirements of judges set out in the KC’s own guide for judges.
“Having said that, when advised of concerns, albeit covered with the KC’s own caveat that it was not suggested that I had said anything wrong, the site was taken down quickly. In the KC’s letter, it says that I moderated the site but later it states that it allowed for unabated debate and criticism. Surely it cannot have been both?
“• No British judge judging in the UK was ever mentioned on the site.
“• All judges had the right to reply.
“• Numerous judges who I have no knowledge of, complained about their colleagues on the site.
“• The extent of the concern expressed is such that what judges can and cannot do in the ring is now an agenda item on the FCI judges’ conference agenda.
“I do not believe that any of these examples would be considered acceptable to anybody and, whilst I did not highlight them, I am the one being punished. This seems to be completely at odds with the chairman’s stated desire to address poor judging.
“The site is considered to have had a considerable positive impact in that many judges are now more aware of the importance of how they do things as well as why they do them. They also acknowledge that the impression they give to exhibitors and spectators alike is of paramount importance.
“The site always held up KC guidelines as being what is expected of a judge but, as previously stated, at no time was any British judge, judging in the UK, mentioned. Comments made about non-UK judges on social media must surely fall outside the KC’s jurisdiction. The KC’s own advice on the use of social media includes the following:
“• Freedom of expression and opinion is, of course, a right of all.
“• It remains our advice that it is better not to read, engage or respond to this sort of material.
“• Sometimes it is better to allow those who choose to air views on these channels the freedom to do so, even if they do not do so in an adult and mature fashion.
“• Social media content should generally be treated as gossip and not a validated and reliable source of information.
“• The Kennel Club's jurisdiction lies primarily with the enforcement of its Regulations and issues arising out of registrations and incidents at licensed events. It does not have any remit or authority to censor material on the internet, or to censure those involved, and is therefore unable to intervene directly in the majority of cases.
“There is no reference anywhere in KC regulations as to what is ‘appropriate behaviour’ of a KC member, so who or what decides what is right? I have asked for precedents and guidance from previous cases but none has been forthcoming. Numerous other requests for information have been ignored. How can anybody make a defence against something that is wholly intangible. The lady at Crufts is a prime example, she broke no rules, but people are indignant. The KC told her it was OK to show under her mother as no rules were being broken. Who decided that?
Which rule did I break?
“Anyone can see that neither the accusations nor the punishment appear to be based on anything substantial laid down in the Red Book. If the KC Board commits to this course of action, the universal assumption will be that their decision is entirely based on the Board’s dislike for a member who won a vote against them at the 2016 AGM. It will not be seen as a mere coincidence.
“In conclusion, whichever way this is looked at, the punishment is entirely disproportionate to the supposed crime. The accusations should be withdrawn and this case dismissed.”