Roderick Chaffin-Laird is a man who has just had his ten-year driving ban reduced to seven years, because he has apparently been offered a ‘prospective’ new job, once he is released from prison; a job for which he apparently has to drive.
To start at the end of the story, as it were –
Death crash driver’s ban is cut
A ‘self-righteous’ motorist, who caused a motorcyclist’s death when his car strayed onto the wrong side of the road, has had his driving ban cut on appeal. Roderick Chaffin-Laird crashed into 60-year-old former motocross champion, Malcolm Dearn, as he turned a bend on a country lane near Billingshurst, killing him almost instantly.
The 67-year-old was jailed for seven years, and banned from the road for ten, at Lewes Crown Court in February 2009 after being convicted of causing death by careless driving and failing to allow a blood sample to be tested for alcohol.
But top judges, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, on Friday agreed to reduce his driving ban to seven years – after hearing he needs to drive for a prospective new job. The court heard Chaffin-Laird, of Brighton Road, Monks Gate, near Horsham, caused Mr Dearn’s death after crashing head-on into him in October 2007.
Mr Dearn, of Ifield Road, Charlwood, Crawley, was out with four other biker friends on one of their regular rides in the Sussex countryside. The experienced rider, who was once a stunt-double for actor Sidney Poitier in a film about motocross, was at the head of the group as they made their way along the A272. As he was about to turn a sharp bend, he saw Chaffin-Laird’s Mercedes coming towards him on the wrong side of the road, or straddling the centre line.
Mr Justice Singh told the court Mr Dearn tried to avoid a collision but was hit and thrown into the air and died at the scene, despite his friends’ efforts to save him. The judge said one of Mr Dearn’s friends spoke to Chaffin-Laird and gave evidence at the trial that he smelled of alcohol. When police arrived, Chaffin-Laird was asked to give a breath test, but didn’t blow hard enough into the bag and collapsed soon after.
He was taken to hospital, where a blood sample was taken from him, but he refused to give his permission for it to be tested for alcohol. The court heard Chaffin-Laird maintained he was not to blame for the crash, but he was found guilty by the jury and described as a ‘self-righteous’ man who had told a series of lies by the trial judge.
Challenging his driving ban, his lawyers argued it was ‘too long’ and told the Appeal Court a prospective employer was willing to offer him a job, but only if he could drive to meet customers. They also said he has a 32-year-old disabled daughter, who will be affected if he remains unable to drive for such a long period. Allowing his appeal, Mr Justice Singh said sentencing guidelines for motoring offences indicate a ban should not be longer than the jail term imposed, of which the offender will serve half. The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Toulson and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, added: “In this case, the disqualification should have been seven years and not ten.”
(From the West Sussex County Times, of Thursday March 1st – story not online)
And now some background. A report from the original trial –
“Never in 35 years have I heard such lies,” a judge told a driver who had denied he was to blame for a fatal crash. Roderick Chaffin-Laird, 64, of Brighton Road, Monks Gate, had denied causing death by careless driving and failing to give a sample for alcohol testing….
Judge Anthony Niblett told him: “You are an intelligent, well-educated man. You are also, to the observation of this court throughout this trial, a self-righteous man. You are a thoroughly dishonest man, who’s lied to courts in the past.” Chaffin-Laird had been jailed in 2003 after he was convicted of perjury and forgery. Judge Niblett called him ‘a practised and calculated liar’ who had lied to the jury when he claimed to have only drunk two glasses of wine that day.
This piece from the Brighton Argus gives a clue to why Judge Niblett might have branded Mr Chaffin-Laird as ‘thoroughly dishonest’ –
Dog blamed for fatal Sussex crash
A motorist who crashed into a motorbike killing a former stuntman told a jury he had no time to stop when a dog ran out in front of his car. Roderick Chaffin-Laird, 64, said he instinctively swerved his Mercedes to avoid hitting the animal moments before the crash on country road on a dark night in October 2007.
He claimed he had no time to react when seconds later the headlights of victim Malcolm Dearn’s BMW bike appeared around a bend on the A272 near Billingshurst. Former motocross champion Mr Dearn, 60, of Ifield Road, Charlwood, Crawley, died at the scene of the crash at Coneyhurst.
Chaffin-Laird, of Monks Gate, near Horsham, denies causing death by careless driving and failing to give police permission to test a blood sample for alcohol. Giving evidence at Lewes Crown Court yesterday he said he suffered flashbacks and nightmares about the crash but blamed a dog for causing the fatal accident.
He added: “A dog suddenly jumped from the hedgerow. It stopped in the road, turned and looked at me and froze. There was really no time to do anything. I felt a bump and the next thing I know my car had stopped. It was the most horrific, tragic accident.” Chaffin-Laird said he had only had two glasses of wine all day and denied swallowing mints to mask the smell of alcohol. He told the court he was staggering at the scene of the crash due to a back injury caused by an earlier accident.
And still more detail, which might explain why the Judge also branded Mr Chaffin-Laird ‘self-righteous’ –
After the accident Mr Dearn’s friend, John Davey, who had been riding behind and saw the accident, spoke to Chaffin-Laird, who was seen staggering as he got out of his car… Mr Davey could smell alcohol on the motorist’s breath but when asked if he had been drinking Chaffin-Laird denied it. Mr Adebayo [prosecuting] said: “The defendant was popping mints into his mouth, no doubt trying to mask the smell of alcohol.”
When police arrived Chaffin-Laird failed to give an adequate sample for a roadside breath test and was arrested. He then fell against the police car and was taken to hospital where he was discharged hours later. He refused to allow police to test a blood sample taken at the hospital.
He later issued a written statement to the police in which he claimed as he approached the bend a dog ran into the road and he had swerved to try to avoid it. He said in the statement, if the motorcyclist had been driving at a sensible speed he could have stopped or taken evasive action and not hit his car.
No apology, excuses, and victim-blaming. Charming.
Mr Chaffin-Laird is no doubt well-practised in the art of dishonesty, given that he is a convicted fraudster, previously jailed in 2003 for… oh… lots of things.
Millionaire benefit fraudster jailed
A crooked businessman claimed the dole and posed as a bankrupt while living the high life in his country mansion. Shipbroker Roderick Chaffin-Laird lived a double life, cheating creditors out of thousands of pounds pretending to be broke. His lies caught up with him on Friday when the millionaire was jailed for 18 months on forgery and perjury charges.
Chaffin-Laird, 58, banked at Harrods, owned a huge house near Horsham and paid for his daughters to attend private school. But he claimed voluntary bankruptcy as a sham to keep his lucrative assets secure and accepted unemployment benefit to give the impression he had no money. He took out a £20,000 loan with Jersey-based firm Difex and committed fraud to keep them at bay.
He claimed he needed the cash to pay his two daughters’ school fees at Roedean School, Brighton. Investigators from the Department of Trade and Industry believe the money was needed as a bridging loan when he moved from Tongdean Avenue, Hove, to his mansion at Monk’s Gate near Horsham.
Chaffin-Laird was found guilty of three charges of perjury and four offences of forgery at a trial last year. He has now pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice that involved the obtaining of his bankruptcy agreement. Jailing him, Judge Christopher Hordern told Chaffin-Laird: “These were matters that involved extremely deliberate and devious dishonesty. It is apparent that for whatever reason, you have been living a lie for a number of years.”
Mr Chaffin-Laird will be released from prison later this year, having served half of his three-and-a-half year sentence. It is important to note that his driving ban will still last for another three-and-a-half years, despite being cut.
You would like to think that this fine, upstanding citizen can keep himself out of a motor car for that period, despite the pressing matter of his ‘job’ that requires the use of his car; a car he can’t legally use until he is seventy.
I’ll be watching out for him on Horsham’s roads – in every sense.