Grieving mother wants answers after witness protection tragedy

Last updated 00:00 27/10/2007

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The mother of a woman killed by a criminal on the witness protection programme says he is "a dirtbag" who wasted a new chance at life.

The Sunday Star-Times reported last week that a fault in the police computer system allowed people on the witness protection programme to hide previous convictions when re-arrested.

Police have refused to comment.

However, a ministerial inquiry will investigate how Jonathon Barclay, 26, was able to conceal his record and remain at liberty despite his arrest on drink-driving charges. A month later, in December, he drove his car into Debbie Ashton, 20, of Hope, near Nelson.

He was jailed for five years in June for Ashton's manslaughter.

Her mother, Judy, said the family's grieving could not be completed until they got answers on how Barclay was treated as a first offender, when his record would have meant his return to prison.

"He was a dirtbag who had been given a whole new chance in life and just thought `stuff everybody'... why do you give these people a second chance?

"I'm hoping that the ministerial inquiry will bring all this to the front and answer all the questions that we have."

The family knew soon after the accident that Barclay had two identities, but suppression orders prevented them hearing the full story.

"I personally attended every court appearance, but more often than not I would go in and walk out two minutes later because it was a closed session. But I had made a commitment and I had to do it."

Ashton said it frightened her to think that what happened to Debbie could have happened to another family.

The suppression orders relating to Barclay's past only fuelled thoughts of a cover-up.

Ashton said she hoped the ministerial inquiry, headed by Kristy McDonald, QC, would be completed by Christmas.

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- Sunday Star Times

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