Name swaps 'ease path for killer driver'

Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Debbie Ashton

DEBBIE ASHTON: Died in a 2006 head-on crash. Jonathan Barclay was convicted of her manslaughter.

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A driver who has killed a woman in one crash and seriously injured a toddler in another could hurt more people because he keeps hiding behind new identities, the mother of one of his victims says.

Jonathon Barclay 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, provided to him by the witness protection programme.

After serving five years for manslaughter, he assumed yet another name and moved to Hawke's Bay in April 2011.

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

Appearing in Napier District Court yesterday, Barclay, 32, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on three counts of driving while under the influence of a controlled drug, causing injury and a charge of breaching bail. He was also disqualified from holding a driver's licence for three years.

Debbie Ashton's mother, Judy, was "a little bit gutted" that the judge did not order Barclay's disqualification to begin once he had served his prison sentence.

Last week coroner Garry Evans said prisoners should serve their driving bans after they were freed.

Mrs Ashton believed repeat offenders such as Barclay should never be allowed back behind the wheel. "Is there not a time when we say to these people, ‘You just can't drive'?"

Mrs Ashton said the suppression of Barclay's new name was a "total mockery".

"He hasn't taken responsibility for his actions; he just keeps hiding behind these new identities. He'll come out under a new name and nobody in the community will know his past offences - so how do they know that they're at risk if you get in a car with him?"

In court, Judge Tony Adeane said the sole purpose for the suppression was so that the witness protection programme remained effective. It did not allow Barclay to conceal his extensive criminal history.

Barclay's lawyer, Matthew Phelps, said his client had begun to turn his life around, becoming a "straight-A student" 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 behind his criminal past. He also suffered from bipolar disorder and depression.

He 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.

However, Judge Adeane said a community-based sentence was not appropriate. "He is still subject to weaknesses which make him a significant risk to the public."

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- The Dominion Post

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