A family are campaigning to change a law which prevents drink drivers from being prosecuted on private roads – after an 11-year-old schoolboy was killed by a tractor on a farm.
Little Harry Whitlam was hit by a reversing tractor and slurry trailer on Swithens Farm in Rothwell, West Yorks., in August 2013.
An inquest into his death heard that although tractor driver, 50-year-old Gary Green, gave a reading of 90mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – making him over twice the legal drink drive limit – he could not be prosecuted because he was driving on private land.
Speaking at the inquest in Leeds, West Yorks., in July this year, Detective Benn Kemp explained: “Offences under the Road Traffic Act can only be on a public road.
“The police worked with the CPS and they determined the incident had not happened on a public road and were unable to prosecute Mr Green.”
But now Harry’s family are trying to create “Whitlam’s Law”, which will mean that drink drivers will be prosecuted whether they are driving on public or private land.
His mum, Pamela Whitlam, 48, of Wakefield, West Yorks., said: “I don’t believe there to be any difference that if someone is drink driving, wherever they are, they should be prosecuted – whether they are on public land or private.
“There is a big loophole in the legal system and it is completely wrong.
“I don’t want Harry to be used as an example for drivers to get out of being prosecuted.
“I would much rather see Harry’s name used to save people’s lives, close this legal loophole and change the law than be used to acquit drivers, leaving them to re-offend.”
Harry had worked as a helper on Swithens Farm, but had strayed into an off-limits area when he was hit by the tractor.
A statement from his mum, read at the inquest into his death, said: “He loved to come [to the farm] on a Saturday afternoon and help his friend Jack.
“He had a great time on the farm and was like John Gill’s shadow.
“He was not supervised but I thought he could be safe. He knew about danger.”
While a statement from tractor driver Mr Green, who had worked for Swithens Farm for 30 years, said he had drank the night before.
The statement – read out after Mr Green was exempt from attending the inquest on medical grounds – said: “I had four pints in the pub after work and then I went home to watch the rugby I had taped on Sky and had some cans watching that.”
“I went to bed about 2am that night and our lass got up at 7am and I got up with her.”
He said he had not had a drink between waking up and driving the tractor.
Speaking to police at the farm after the incident, Mr Green said: “Kids shouldn’t be around there [the area of the accident]. Nobody’s allowed around there apart from staff.”
And later, during a police interview, Mr Green said: “I don’t know where the hell he came from. Nobody should be down there, I don’t know where he came from. “I just didn’t know he was there.”
Detective Benn Kemp told the inquest that he could smell alcohol on Mr Green’s breath when he arrived at the scene.
Harry was flown by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary after the incident on August 9, 2013 but sadly died from his traumatic head injury.
Yorkshire solicitors Switalskis are helping the family with the campaign.
The family have started a petition on change.org and are using the hashtag #Whitlamslaw on Twitter to raise publicity.