Rapist who complained about lawyers sent counsel ‘thank you’ note

Court of Appeal: Advice was sound

A man convicted of rape has lost an appeal that was based partly on the quality of legal advice, with evidence showing he actually sent his trial counsel a ‘thank you’ card.

The Court of Appeal held that Simon Coombes had no basis for challenging either his conviction in February 2021 on two grounds of rape or the sentence he received comprising a custodial term of 12 years and six months and an extended period of five years.

Mr Coombes, who represented himself, made a number of serious complaints about the conduct of his trial by his experienced counsel and her instructing solicitors, said Lady Justice Andrews, giving the court’s ruling.

He waived privilege and the judge said nothing in the correspondence and attendance notes “gives rise to an arguable ground of appeal with real prospects of success”.

Andrews J said: “His defence was competently and professionally prepared and presented, and his instructions were followed to the extent that it was permissible to do so as a matter of professional ethics.

“For example, counsel would not have been allowed to put to any witness that they had tampered with evidence or otherwise sought to pervert the course of justice without any evidence to support those allegations other than their client’s assertions.”

Whatever Mr Coombes now said, his amended defence statement was in accordance with his instructions and he approved it, the judge went on.

“There is contemporaneous evidence that Mr Coombes, far from being dissatisfied with his representation at trial, was highly complimentary about it, until he was convicted.

“On 31 January 2021 the trial solicitors mentioned in an email to counsel that Mr Coombes had described her cross-examination of C as ‘brilliant’ and as leaving the witness with ‘nowhere to go’.

“Mr Coombes even sent counsel a thank you card before the verdicts were returned, with a handwritten message saying: ‘Sorry I haven’t been the easiest client to work with (smiley face) whatever the outcome I know you did your best & I’m truly grateful. I hope by now it’s clear I’m innocent. Was nice meeting you.’

“He has sought to explain this away as an attempt to apologise for his ‘out of control behaviour which continued throughout trial’ and as a gesture of kindness because he said that he and counsel had had some disagreements.

“He suggests that the card was sent in the course of the trial and before he gave evidence. It is clear from its contents that this cannot possibly be true.”

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