Ex-joiner jailed over crash

Prof Ed Cairns
Prof Ed Cairns

A 40-year-old former joiner, who initially blamed world-renowned retired psychology professor Edmund Cairns for the fatal road crash which claimed his life in February 2012, was yesterday jailed for six months and banned from driving for three years.

Antrim Crown Court judge Desmond Marrinan told Geoffrey William McLaughlin while it may be natural to avoid blame, what he did was “particularly mean-spirited”.

“It is perhaps only human to seek to avoid blame, but it is particularly mean-spirited to blame an innocent man who can no longer defend himself,” said Judge Marrinan.

McLaughlin, from Ford Road in Stranocum near Ballymoney, he added, waited until the day of his trial last month before “abandoning” his blame-game and admited it was his careless driving which claimed the life of the 66-year-old former Ulster University professor and visiting scholar.

He was originally charged with causing the death of the charity working grandfather, and injuring his own 10-year-old son by dangerous driving in the February 16 crash on the outskirts of Coleraine two years ago.

However, they were dropped when he pleaded to lesser charges of causing death and gievious bodily injury by driving “without due care and attention”.

Earlier Prof Cairns’ family listened as Judge Marrinan told how McLaughlin, despite “clear and independent evidence”, and legal advice, persisted in his own innocence, claiming the professor had caused the accident, which must have been extremely distressing for his grieving widow and family.

However, by his guilty pleas he had saved the family of the world-renowned scholar the even more added stress of a trial.

Probation reports also indicated McLaughlin was deeply remorseful and repeatedly apologised for causing the professor’s death.