Extended ban sought for drink drivers

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 13:08 02/05/2012
Debbie Ashton

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

Judy Ashton
COLIN SMITH/Nelson Mail
JUDY ASHTON: 'I can only hope he has genuinely turned his life around.'
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The driving disqualification for jailed drink drivers should start from when they are released from prison, says Nelson woman Judy Ashton, whose daughter was killed by such a person.

Mrs Ashton is dismayed that Jonathan Barclay, who was released from prison a year ago, has been able to drive and has applied to have his licence restrictions lifted.

He was sentenced to five years and six months in prison for the manslaughter of Debbie Ashton in a head-on crash at Hope in December 2006 and other offences. He was disqualified from driving for three years.

Mrs Ashton said he was in jail for three years and nine months and the loss of his licence during that time was no sacrifice.

"You can't drive while you are in prison," she said.

He was able to drive with restrictions, but he hoped to obtain a full licence.

A Parole Board report says Barclay passed his restricted driving licence in February, was doing a defensive driving course and would be eligible for a full driving licence in June. He had been nervous about driving initially. He told the board he drove about 300 kilometres a week on a route to and from study.

The Parole Board said it was prepared to remove the partial restrictions he had been on for eight months.

However, it continued stipulations, including that he is allowed to drive only between 7am and 7pm and within the restrictions of his licence, to complete the defensive driving course and that he have a medical certificate showing he has not taken any medication likely to affect his driving.

"To me that's a load of rubbish," said Mrs Ashton. "If he can drive, that's not going to stop him. He was a twice disqualified driver when he killed Debbie.

"I can only hope he has genuinely turned his life around."

Barclay, who now has a new identity and is not allowed in the South Island, is still on parole.

Mrs Ashton said she believed he should have been banned from driving until the end of this parole period. "But I understand for him he is trying to get ahead and that's a lot longer."

She said there was inconsistency in sentencing, with some driver disqualifications starting with imprisonment, but others from the time of release.

"That's an area that needs to be tightened so you don't get a soft judge," she said.

Mrs Ashton and her family hope that an inquest will soon be held into her daughter's death.

The inquest could not be held while a private prosecution was before the High Court.

Mrs Ashton and the family of Karl Kuchenbecker, a 26-year-old father shot by convicted murderer Graeme Burton near Wellington in January 2007, were to sue the police and the Department of Corrections over the two deaths.

Mrs Ashton withdrew because it had been five years since her daughter's death and she wanted the inquest to be held.

However, she said the case had made it clear that in similar cases a private prosecution could be taken.

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"That's a milestone in itself."

The Ashton case sparked a ministerial inquiry, which found in 2008 that a series of individual errors within the police and Corrections had led Barclay to remain at large in the community when he should not have been. Both departments apologised to the family.

A month before Debbie Ashton was killed, Barclay had been in court under an assumed identity, used as part of the police witness protection programme, which masked his history, so he was dealt with as a first-time offender, even though he was still on parole for other crimes.

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