(CNS): A former immigration officer who was recently convicted of causing the death of Donnie Ray Connor in a hit-and-run collision on the Linford Pierson Highway in April 2015 was discharged by the Summary Court Tuesday for leaving the scene in connection with the case. Nicholas Tibbetts (25) was given no sentence following his admission and no further punishment in relation to the road death following the 3½ month sentence he was given in the Grand Court for causing Connor’s death.
Tibbetts, who is from Bodden Town, lost his job with immigration as a result of his conviction for causing death by dangerous driving. But he is now a free man, having served less than two months of his short jail term after he was remanded in custody in mid-December and released at the beginning of this month.
Tibbetts was originally charged with various offences, including manslaughter, after Connor’s body was found on the road, several hours after he had been hit and left to die at the scene of the collision, which happened in the early hours of the morning of 23 April almost two years ago. After long discussions between the crown and defence attorneys, Tibbetts, who had been tracked by police through CCTV evidence, eventually pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Although he had been to a bar that night before the collision, he said he had not had very much to drink but fell asleep at the wheel because of the allergy medication he had taken. He said he had no recollection of hitting Connor, who was riding a bicycle, and at the time of his sentencing Tibbetts claimed he was still not sure he was to blame, despite the CCTV footage showing his car entering Linford Pierson Highway intact and then leaving it damaged.
Tibbetts claimed he only became aware of any damage to his car after passing the Country and Western Bar, and so pulled into the Esso station in Red Bay to check the vehicle. He then drove on home to Bodden Town and the next day had the car repaired.
Tibbetts claimed that after Connor’s death was made public, he discussed with family and friends whether he could be to blame, as evidenced by text messages. At one point police had charged him and two other people with attempting to pervert the course of justice but those charges were dropped.
Tibbetts did not go to the police but officers tracked him down four days after the collision and he was arrested.
A visiting judge handed Tibbetts a one-year jail sentence, which was discounted to an eight month term because of his guilty plea. But she was then required to discount his sentence further when his defence attorney raised the issue of Tibbett’s bail on a curfew and electronic tag, which saw the sentence cut even more to just three and a half months. As the Conditional Release Law does not apply to anyone serving less than 12 months, Tibbetts is understood to have been released after serving around six weeks in jail.
He appeared in Traffic Court Tuesday charged with leaving the scene and pleaded guilty, but Magistrate Adam Roberts gave Tibbetts a full discharge with no consequences.
Concerns have been raised in the community about the inconsistencies regarding the punishment handed out to drivers involved in road deaths. Donovan Kellyman, who admitted causing the death of Marcia Donaldson just a few days after Tibbetts killed Connor, is serving a two-year term because he admitted causing death by dangerous driving, rather than careless driving, which carries a heavier penalty. But this was because Kellyman did not leave the scene but called for help. As a result he was breathalyzed and found to be over the alcohol limit.
In the Tibbetts case, because of his quick departure from the scene, the repairs to his car and the fact that there was no evidence of how much he had drunk, he ended up facing a lesser charge. With no consequences for leaving the scene, this has created two very inequitable outcomes for drivers who caused the death of two people in very similar circumstances.