By Tim Petruk/Black Press
Allowing a former New Zealand politician charged with first-degree murder to file applications in court on his own behalf would be akin to a B.C. Supreme Court judge launching a NASA rocket.
That’s what Peter Beckett was told in a Kamloops courtroom on Wednesday, March 19, as a date was set to hear arguments on his disclosure application.
Beckett, 57, is charged with first-degree murder, counselling to commit murder and obstructing justice. The Crown alleges he killed his wife at Shelter Bay near Revelstoke in 2010, then plotted to have five witnesses murdered while behind bars in 2012.
The former town councillor in Napier, New Zealand, is representing himself in court.
In February, he applied to be given paper copies of all disclosure — something the Crown argued was impractical compared to digital versions.
The matter is complicated by the fact B.C. Corrections is opposed to Beckett — a resident of Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre for the time being — having access to a computer, which he would need to review the digital disclosure.
Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem appointed a lawyer to represent Beckett in his applications.
Beckett was not happy with that decision and told Meiklem as much.
“I can’t appoint somebody for you if you don’t want them,” Meiklem said.
“My decision to appoint counsel relates to my assessment of your ability to do the right thing by yourself in terms of the disclosure application.”
“You don’t think I have the intellect to represent myself?” Beckett asked.
“It’s not about intellect,” Meiklem replied. “It’s about knowledge and expertise.”
“You think I’m lacking in those?” Beckett asked.
“Well, yes,” Meiklem said. “It would be like me walking into NASA headquarters and saying, ‘I’m going to take over this rocket launch now.’ I’m just not equipped to do it no matter what my intellect might be.”
Beckett is alleged to have killed his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, 50, by pushing her off a boat at Shelter Bay — south of Revelstoke — in 2010.
He was arrested a year later.
In late 2012, while Beckett was in custody charged with murder, he was charged with the additional counts following an undercover jailhouse investigation by RCMP.
Police allege Beckett plotted to kill five witnesses — including Letts-Beckett’s parents, an RCMP sergeant and an Alberta lawyer — while behind bars.
Beckett and his wife lived north of Edmonton at the time of the incident and are believed to have been in B.C. on vacation.
The drowning was first believed to have been an accident.
A New Zealand native, Beckett served as a town councillor in Napier from 1998 to 2001.
New Zealand media reports describe him as something of a Kiwi Rob Ford, who made headlines for assaulting the captain of a rugby team in a pub and stealing taxpayer-purchased liquor from a city meeting.
Most recently, he worked as a school bus driver in Westlock, Alta.
Beckett’s application hearing is slated to take place on April 15.