The mother of a young boy killed when a drunken farmhand reversed over him with a tractor while on private land escaping a heavy jail sentence has called for a change in the law.
Gary Green, 51, reversed a slurry trailer into Harry Whitlam, 11, at Swithens Farm in Leeds, West Yorkshire in August 2013.
Green, who was almost three times the legal drink drive limit was not prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving as the incident happened on private land and was not covered by road traffic legislation.
Gary Green, pictured, was almost three-times the drink drive limit when he killed 11-year-old Harry Whitlam , at Swithens Farm in Leeds, West Yorkshire in August 2013
Harry Whitlam, pictured, was helping feed animals on the farm when he was struck by Green’s tractor which was reversing a load of slurry, leaving him mortally injured on the floor
Pamela Whitlam, pictured, wants the law changed so people found drink driving on private land face the same sanction of those caught on the public highway
Green, who had two previous convictions for drink driving, was convicted of breaching health and safety legislation and jailed for 16 months. Once he is released, the farm labourer is free to start driving again as he did not lose his licence due to a loophole.
Harry’s mother Pamela, 50, wants the law changed so people who drive over the legal limit while on private property can face prosecution.
If Green had killed her son on the public highway, he would have received a maximum of 14 years in prison and a long driving ban.
However, because the incident happened on a farm, he was sentenced to 16-and-a-half months – near the maximum level of two years – and escaped without a driving ban.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mrs Whitlam said: ‘I don’t hate Gary Green, because hating him won’t bring my son back. But the law needs to change so that people who drink and drive are brought to justice, no matter where they do it.
Harry, pictured, was airlifted to hospital but died a short time later
‘If you murder or rape someone on private land, the same laws still apply. Why isn’t this the case when you kill someone because you have chosen to drink and drive?’
Mrs Whitlam worked as a cook at the farm. Her son often came with her to work and helped feed the animals.
The youngster left a barn as Green – who was recovering after a 13-pint session the night before – was reversing his tractor.
Mrs Whitlam was preparing her son a bacon sandwich when one of the workers raced into the kitchen to tell her there had been a tragic accident.
She said: ‘Green was holding Harry, who was vomiting blood. I asked him not to leave, because I needed someone to help me support Harry until the ambulance got there.’
Harry was airlifted to hospital where medics warned Mrs Whitlam that her son only had a 20 per cent chance of survival.
When police arrived at the farm and breathalysed Green, the farmhand told them it was private land and the drink driving law did not apply.
During his trial at Leeds Magistrates’ Court, Andrew Broom prosecuting said: ‘This is an alleged breach of health and safety legislation that he did expose employees at the farm to risk by working under the influence of drink.
‘It is the crown’s case that exposing the employees to risk led to the death of Harry Whitlam.’
Green, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire admitted failing to ensure the safety of another but originally claimed he couldn’t see Harry at the time of the collision.
He previously denied two charges of breaching health and safety regulations.
His barrister, Michael Collins, told the court: ‘The Crown put the case on the basis that he could have seen and should have seen Harry and no issue is now taken with that assertion.’
Green was driving a tractor at Swithens Farm in Leeds, West Yorkshire in August 2013, pictured
Harry, who helped feed animals on the farm while his mother worked as a cook, was believed to have walked out of a barn and been hit by Green while he was reversing.
During an inquest held last year, Green admitted to drinking four pints in a pub after work the previous day, before ‘some cans’ of beer while watching television until 2am.
A breathalyser test at the scene showed Mr Green had 90 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms.
In the two day inquest, a police traffic collision expert said the boy would have been visible in the driver’s mirrors for ‘three to four seconds’ but would have been in a blind spot at the moment of impact.
After the inquest, a statement was read by on behalf of the family by their solicitor.
It said: ‘It has been extremely distressing for the family to hear the evidence. In particular, the fact the driver was over twice the legal limit … Plus, that Harry was there to be seen, had the appropriate observations been made.
‘It is a legal anomaly that because the accident took place on private property there can be no criminal prosecution arising from Harry’s death.
‘The family believe there should be a change in the law … we hope the evidence heard will be considered as part of the ongoing [Health and Safety Executive] investigation into the case.’
The lawyer added that Harry was ‘never happier than when he was around the animals he loved’. The law states a motorist can be prosecuted for drink-driving only if they are on a road accessible to the public. Swithens Farm is private and the part where the incident happened was not open to the public.