THE boss of Ambleside’s Hayes Garden World has resigned after being jailed for lying to police and the courts.

A shadow was cast over the future of the family-run business when managing director Thomas Richard Hayes was imprisoned for 18 months at Carlisle Crown Court earlier this week.

It took just 30 minutes for a jury to find him guilty of perverting the course of justice after lying about who was driving a car which crashed in November, 2010.

His barrister Lisa Judge said jailing Hayes could lead to the closure of the business.

“The implications are massive not just to his wife and child. This is about the potential demise of a business,” she said.

But Hayes’s mother Elizabeth, who is the majority shareholder at the Lake Road business, dispelled the claim.

She told The Westmorland Gazette: “While this has been a difficult time for us, we want to assure customers and the community we are committed to driving Hayes Garden World forward through a strong management team that has the full support of myself as majority share-holder.”

Mrs Hayes said her son had now resigned and would not be replaced as managing director. The firm would now be run by a management team of three, including herself.

She said: “Hayes Garden World is a family business that has a strong heritage in Cumbria spanning over 200 years and we place great importance on our standing.”

Before sentencing on Monday, Ms Judge told the court: “There is potential for collapse, leading to mass unemployment and an impact on the local community.

“There are a lot of people who rely on a man who cares deeply about maintaining employment in his local area.” Hayes, 46, of Crook Road, near Kendal, was found guilty following a six day trial.

His co-defendant, Derek Henderson, 58, of Woodbank Terrace, Endmoor, was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

The trial arose after questions were raised over who was driving a luxury Porsche Cayenne when it narrowly avoided a head-on collision and flipped on Hollins Lane, Burneside on November 21, 2010.

The court heard that Hayes used his ‘power and influence’ to collude with Henderson to spin the web of lies in an attempt to avoid the consequences.

The pair remained silent as judge Michael Hayton QC also sentenced Henderson to one year in jail.

Katie Nicolson, senior prosecutor for CPS North West, said afterwards: “A jury has seen through their lies.”

Prosecutor Brendan Burke told the court: “Fearing the consequences of prison or a ban, Hayes used his position of power and influence, whether with money or the threat of less work, to force Henderson to say he was driving.”

Hayes was previously convicted of getting behind the wheel while nearly four times the drink drive limit. He was jailed for 18 weeks after an appeal was rejected.

Both men stood accused of lying between November 2010 and July 25, 2012, including during police interviews and three court appearances.

Henderson, a contractor who had worked at the garden centre, told police he was driving – but he made no mention of the near miss with oncoming motorist Terrance Willan.

Mr Willan told the court he was driving in the opposite direction when he was confronted by the Porsche.

He said it took around 30 seconds to perform a three-point turn before reaching the car to check for casualties.

He saw a man scramble through the driver’s side window.

Henderson said he got out of the car by forcing open the driver’s door.

Hayes said he had asked Henderson to drive him to the Spar in Burneside for bread and milk, realising that he was still unfit after a drinking session with friends the night before.

Unfamiliar to driving an automatic car, Henderson crashed the vehicle and fled, the defence said.

But the jury of eight men and four women did not believe their story.

Passing sentence, Mr Hayton QC told Hayes he was a ‘decent member of the community’ who had brought it on himself.