Police illegally listened to phone calls between a convicted Northland drug baron and his lawyer but the prisoner's rights were not breached, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The country's top court this week dismissed Max John Beckham's applications against a sentence of 18 years and leave to appeal against his conviction.
The wealthy Far North businessman, 67, claimed authorities breached the Bill of Rights Act by intercepting calls he made from prison to trial lawyer Murray Gibson and on one occasion to his son, who then handed the phone to a property lawyer.
Beckham was sentenced by the High Court on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and supply methamphetamine and supplying methamphetamine, cocaine, cannabis oil and ecstasy. He was originally sentenced to 13-and-a-half years' jail with a minimum non-parole term of seven years but the Court of Appeal, after a Crown application, changed it to 18 years' jail with a minimum nine years' non-parole.
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On August 18, 2009, police began listening to recorded calls supplied by Corrections and were instructed not to listen to any directed to Mr Gibson.
The Supreme Court ruled that since calls from Beckham to his lawyer were listened to only to identify they were to Mr Gibson, no privileged communication had been listened to.
Beckham was granted bail in August 2010 after his lawyer argued it was no longer practical for them to make contact by phone because Beckham was being denied the right to properly prepare for trial.
The Supreme Court said solicitor/client privilege or confidentiality came into play when a person obtained legal services from a lawyer. However, the calls from Beckham involved him obtaining legal advice in relation to his case.
"While we do not underestimate the seriousness of the misconduct of the police officers ... the reality is that the interference with Mr Beckham's rights was relatively minor, given that the privileged information that was obtained pursuant to the unlawful seizures of call data from Corrections was not listened to and did not come into the hands of those involved in prosecuting him," the court said.
"The reality is that he has not suffered any prejudice in practical terms, and in those circumstances a reduction in sentence would be something of a windfall to him, rather than a vindication of his rights," it ruled.