Coroner recommends stricter rules for disqualified drivers
Wednesday 20 Feb 2013 6:05 p.m.
A coroner has recommended people who are jailed and disqualified from driving should lose their licences when they're freed.
At the moment, the licence suspension is served while they're behind bars and not driving anyway.
Judy Ashton visits daughter Debbie's grave regularly. But she believes she wouldn't have to if a coroner's recommendation had been in place in 2006, because Debbie's killer, Jonathan Barclay, wouldn't have been allowed to drive.
“He wouldn't possibly have been on the road anyway and Debbie might still have been alive,” says Ms Ashton. “So if this can save other young lives, excellent.”
When Debbie was killed, Barclay was on parole. He'd been drinking and was driving while disqualified. He had an extensive history of doing both.
For Debbie’s manslaughter he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, and again disqualified from driving for three years.
The Wellington coroner recommends driving disqualifications should begin after offenders leave prison. The Transport Minister agrees.
“I think there's a lot of merit in what he's said,” says Gerry Brownlee. “We're certainly looking at it.”
Prisoner's rights campaigner Kim Workman sees the coroner's logic but says it shouldn't be applied to every offender.
“We shouldn't restrict ourselves to predetermined outcomes,” she says.
A ministerial inquiry in 2008 accepted police, Corrections and Probation Services all failed Debbie Aston.
Barclay should have been in jail two months before he killed Debbie. Police stopped him for drink driving, but he used the name he'd been given under the police witness protection programme. He was treated as a first-time offender.
All departments promised they'd made changes. Six years later the inquest finally confirmed it.
“That's huge for me,” says Ms Aston. “It’s that peace of mind that I haven't had before.”
Ms Ashton's now looking forward to spending more time with her newest granddaughter, born last year, on the anniversary of the day Debbie died.