Mark Mullins, for the Crown, and Francesca Levett (led by Sarah Forshaw QC), for the Defendant, appeared in the unsuccessful appeal by Goldie Coats against her conviction for drug smuggling which was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”).
In November 2008 Ms Coats was convicted of smuggling 1.6kg of cocaine into the UK with an accomplice, Aaron Blackstock. She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at Isleworth Crown Court in December 2008 as the leading courier. The case was referred to the Court of Appeal after Ms Coats claimed that she was the victim of domestic violence by her partner, Chesham Walters, who forced her to commit the offence under duress. The claim was made shortly after Walters was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 2009.
A psychiatrist instructed by the CCRC, Dr Gillian Mezey, concluded that she was suffering from Battered Women’s Syndrome (BWS) at the time of the offence but the Crown’s psychiatrist, Dr Joseph, did not agree. Unusually the Court of Appeal, in a two day hearing, heard live evidence from Ms Coats and from both psychiatrists but concluded that Ms Coats was not capable of belief and that she was not suffering from BWS at the time of the offence. This is the first time the defence of BWS has been raised by a drug smuggler.
The Court of Appeal acknowledged that BWS is a relevant characteristic to be taken into account when considering duress, which should be taken into account for both the subjective and objective tests.