Man on witness protection programme jailed

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 13:29 26/02/2013

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A driver who killed a young woman while on a witness protection programme has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment after a crash that flung a three-year-old boy from a car.

Jonathon Barclay, now 32, killed Debbie Ashton, 20, in a crash near Nelson in December 2006.

Just a month earlier, he could have been jailed for a repeat driving offence, but was treated as a first-time offender because the court did not know he was using a new identity.

He was jailed for five years for the manslaughter of Ashton, and was freed from prison in April 2011. He assumed yet another name, Jordan Ubertek, when he was freed, and moved to Hawke's Bay.

On August 19 his BMW collided with a truck while he was attempting a U-turn on the Hawke's Bay expressway. He and the 3-year-old boy were both admitted to hospital; a woman and a 1-year-old in Barclay's car suffered minor injuries.

Barclay was discharged from Hawke's Bay Regional Hospital and recalled to prison after the Parole Board issued an interim order.

Barclay appeared in Napier District Court today for sentencing on three counts of driving while under the influence of a controlled drug, causing injury and a charge of breaching bail. He breached his bail by consuming methamphetamine.

His lawyer Matthew Phelps said Barclay had been trying to turn his life around when he had a momentary lapse of judgement by deciding to drive under the influence of drugs.

Barclay had been a "straight A student" while studying a computer course at Eastern Institute of Technology. However, he turned to drugs to cope with his grandmother's death.

Mr Phelps said Barclay's addiction to drugs was to blame for most of his criminal past. He also suffered from bipolar disorder and depression.

Mr Phelps submitted that Barclay should be given a community-based sentence so he could attend a drug rehabilitation programme. In prison Barclay could not participate in such treatment because he was in the witness protection programme, Mr Phelps said.

"He has not yet conquered his demons."

However, Judge Tony Adeane said a community based sentence was not appropriate.

"He is still subject to weaknesses which make him a significant risk to the public."

Barclay was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and disqualified from holding a driver's licence for three years.

Judge Adeane suppressed Barclay's new name and any image of him from being published so that the witness protection programme remained effective.

Judge Adeane said the community could be assured the suppression did not allow Barclay to conceal his extensive criminal history.

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Contact Tracey Chatterton
Hawke's Bay reporter
Email: tracey.chatterton@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @trackchatt

- The Dominion Post

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