6 Apr 2016

Rapist loses appeal despite lawyer's drug troubles

5:51 pm on 6 April 2016

A court has dismissed a rapist's appeal that he didn't get a fair trial because his lawyer failed to tell his client he was being investigated by the police.

Wellington District Court.

A court has found lawyer Keith Jefferies was still acting in the best interests of his client, despite a drug conviction. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Matthew Ferguson Simpson was jailed for nine and a half years for raping a woman in her 20s who was in Wellington for the Sevens in January 2013.

After becoming sick in her drunken state, the woman, accompanied by a group of her friends, was driven home by the man and put to bed.

The man dropped the friends off at Westpac Stadium, then returned to the woman's home and raped her.

Simpson has now unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and sentence before the Court of Appeal, arguing his lawyer, Mr Jefferies, failed to tell him he was being investigated by the police during his trial.

Jefferies' home and office were searched on the evening of the first day of the rape trial, and he was subsequently convicted of possessing methamphetamine and other drugs.

Simpson also argued Jefferies acted incompetently during his trial, including failing to challenge the admissibility of DNA evidence, which caused a miscarriage of justice.

"Had I known that the police had searched Mr Jefferies' home and office and found drugs and that he was facing possible criminal charges, I would not have wanted the trial to proceed," he told the court.

"I cannot see how my lawyer, who was supposed to be concentrating on my defence, could properly give attention to my case when he is under the pressure of a police inquiry."

However, the Court of Appeal found the police investigation did not prevent Jefferies from acting in the best interests of his client.

Jefferies said the focus of the police search of his home was in response to an allegation of money laundering - which he was not charged for.

He said he had seen a drug counsellor prior to sentencing and was told he did not meet the criteria of drug addiction. During Simpson's sentencing, a judge described Jefferies as a "recreational user".

The Court of Appeal also found the lawyer's conduct during the trial was appropriate.