'Crime boss' fights conviction

A once successful businessman turned "crime boss", who was found guilty last year of serious drug charges including supplying 2kg of P, has appealed his conviction and sentence.

Max John Beckham, of Northland, was sentenced to 13 years and six months' imprisonment in August last year for manufacturing and supplying methamphetamine, supplying cocaine, MDMA and cannabis, and money laundering.

Beckham previously co-owned the ITM store in Mangonui, ran a property development company, hand-planted a large olive orchard and once owned a large commercial fishing fleet.

At his hearing in the Court of Appeal at Auckland yesterday, Justice Lynton Stevens, Justice Robert Dobson and Justice Geoffrey Venning were told police listened to privileged conversations between Beckham and his lawyer while Beckham was in custody. While information from the calls was not used at Beckham's April 2011 trial, "at least some of the calls were listened to, to some extent", his lawyer Simon Mount said.

Crown Counsel David Boldt said it was worth noting the calls were made from public prison phones.

Prisoners had the option of the more secure method of using a phone in an office, which was not monitored, Mr Boldt said.

The calls were made 18 months before Beckham's trial, while he was in custody on other matters. Police listened to seven to nine calls, Mr Mount said.

He asked that either Beckham's convictions be quashed altogether or a retrial be held at which police who listened to the calls had to give evidence. Alternatively, the sentence should be reduced.

Justice Stevens said Beckham was an admitted drug dealer and the victims of his crime would be punished by a sentence reduction.

Also asking for a sentence reduction for Beckham at the Court of Appeal was lawyer Steve Bonnar. He argued that the eight months Beckham spent on electronically monitored bail was not taken into account at sentencing.

It also emerged Beckham has stage-two pancreatic cancer.

"One of the provisions of the sentencing act is that a court has to have regard to the fact whether there are any factors that would make the term of imprisonment more harsh for a particular person than for an ordinary person," Mr Bonnar said.

It was hard for Beckham to receive the treatment he needed. Mr Bonnar said the Paremoremo Prison lockdown in July had meant Beckham missed a radiologist's appointment.

When arrested in 2008, Beckham was a significant figure in the methamphetamine trade in Northland and Auckland, police said. He was described as a crime boss who made millions in a drug ring he ruled ruthlessly.

Officers found 112g of methamphetamine in his car and 252g buried next to his driveway, and $856,720 in a car and in Beckham's house.

Assets and cash worth more than $10 million were frozen by the High Court.

Two late-model Ford Falcons were among assets seized - one with the registration plate B4DBOY - as well as a fishing vessel called Unity.

As the presiding judge, Justice Stevens reserved the court's decision.

- Northern Advocate

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