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Stephenson role on BHA board is confirmed

24 April 2015

THE police commander who oversaw the evacuation of Aintree following the IRA bomb warnings at the 1997 Grand National is set to join the BHA board in July, it was confirmed yesterday. 

As revealed by the Racing Post on Monday, former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson is to take the role of independent regulatory director from July 1, taking over from fellow former policeman Ben Gunn, who has been with the BHA and its predecessors since 2002. Stephenson, 61, whose career with the police force lasted more than 35 years, held senior command positions in Mersey side, Lancashire and London. 

He was the most senior police officer in the UK when commissioner of the Met, during which time he advised governments on issues ranging from counterterrorism to serious organised crime. However, he stepped down from the position in July 2011 out of a “sense of duty and honour” in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal after public criticism over the Met’s hiring of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis as a PR consultant. Stephenson said: “I’m greatly looking forward to taking up this role, at a hugely important time for a sport that clearly makes a significant contribution to British life.

The regulation of British racing, as with any sport, is critical to its future success, and I hope my experience can help the BHA build on its reputation in this area.” Aintree’s press officer for the Grand National, Nigel Payne, remembered Stephenson’s involvement in the postponement of the 1997 race, which was run the following Monday. He said: “Sir Paul was at that time chief constable of Merseyside Police and as such was Gold Commander of the whole evacuation process. Peter Daresbury, Charles Barnett and I attended several meetings at police HQ and Sir Paul chaired them all. “I remember being impressed by his authoritative yet relaxed approach and when it came to the decision to rerun the race on the Monday he gave us the backing and support we needed.”

The appointment completes the recent changes made to the BHA board, with the governing body’s chairman Steve Harman saying it showed the calibre of applicant the BHA could attract.

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