Peter Beckett

Peter Beckett

Lawyers for accused wife killer want charges dropped due to delay

Peter Beckett is facing a first-degree murder charge, stemming from the 2010 death of Laura Letts.

Lawyers representing a former New Zealand politician accused of killing his wife on a B.C. vacation more than six years ago will seek to have the charges against Peter Beckett dropped due to delay.

The charges the 61-year-old is facing include first-degree murder, stemming from the 2010 death of his wife, Laura Letts, who drowned in a lake near Revelstoke.

Beckett was arrested and charged in August 2011 and has been in custody since.

He stood trial in B.C. Supreme Court last year, but jurors were unable to come to a unanimous verdict. The judge declared a mistrial.

Beckett’s second trial is scheduled to begin in front of a Kamloops jury on May 15.

During a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday, defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford said she plans to seek a stay for Beckett based on a 2016 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that placed firm time limits on prosecutions.

According to the case, R. v. Jordan, the Crown has two-and-a-half years to deal with a B.C. Supreme Court file from the time charges are laid.

“We will be arguing Jordan in this case,” Sandford said. “We’re now nearing six years since charge approval.”

If Beckett’s first-degree murder charge were to be stayed following a Jordan application, it would not be a first. In October, an Alberta judge threw out Lance Matthew Regan’s first-degree murder charge after his case took more than five years to get to trial.

In November, an Ontario judge tossed Adam Picard’s first-degree murder charge following a Jordan application. He had been accused of stabbing another man to death in 2012.

In some provinces, prosecutors have cited “Jordan jeopardy” in prioritizing major prosecutions to avoid charges being stayed.

Letts drowned in Upper Arrow Lake on Aug. 18, 2010. Her death was initially believed to have been an accident, but police eventually came to believe Beckett killed her out of greed, hoping to cash in on life-insurance and accidental-death benefits.

During his first trial, Beckett maintained Letts’ death was either suicide or an accident. Court heard Letts admitted to having suicidal thoughts in a 2007 diary entry.

Pre-trial motions are expected to begin on March 7.