Harry Whitlam: Mum’s tribute as man jailed over death

Pamela Whitlam is campaigning for the law to be changed in memory of her son, Harry.

Pamela Whitlam is campaigning for the law to be changed in memory of her son, Harry.

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A heartbroken mother has paid a beautiful tribute to her son – as the drunk farm worker who reversed into him in a tractor was jailed for just 16 months because of a legal loophole.

Pamela Whitlam’s son Harry, 11, was a “practical joker” who was “always having fun and so full of energy.”

Harry Whitlam.

Harry Whitlam.

But his life was cut short by Gary Green in 2013. Pamela said today: “It’s a sad fact some law firms pride themselves on exploiting this legal loophole, using it to get drivers acquitted of drink-driving offences.

“I would much rather see Harry’s name used to save people’s lives.”

Three years after that tragic August day, Pamela, working with a firm of solicitors representing her, is campaigning to close a legal loophole, which prevented the man driving the tractor to be criminally prosecuted - even though he was over the drink-drive limit.

As the law stands, because the accident happened on private land and not a public road, the police and Criminal Prosecution Service were legally unable to bring anyone before court.

Now Pamela is campaigning to bring about ‘Whitlam’s Law’ to seek a closure in this loophole, which is currently resisted by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The Dft insists that as the incident happened on a farm, the matter is covered by Health and Safety regulations, which would not be the case should an accident occur on any other private land, meaning, in effect, a drink driver who killed or injured would not be liable for any kind of prosecution.

Pamela said: “The current law states that any person found to be over the legal limit of 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath will be prosecuted if found to be driving on a public road or in a public area.

“Sadly, because Harry’s accident occurred on private land, the drunk driver got away with not being prosecuted.

“I believe there should be no distinction between private or public land if someone is found to be in charge of a motor vehicle whilst under the influence.

“By driving in this state they not only endanger the lives of others but also put their own life at risk.

“It’s a sad fact that some law firms pride themselves on exploiting this legal loophole, using it to get drivers acquitted of drink-driving offences. It’s even more distressing to me when they quote my son’s death as an example of how they can ‘beat’ the legal system.

“I would much rather see Harry’s name used to save people’s lives.”

*****

Harry Whitlam was just 11 years old when a slurry tractor accidentally reversed over him on farmland in Rothwell on August 9 2013.

He was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary, but died a short time later from a traumatic head injury.

An inquest heard Harry, of Bradford Road, East Ardsley, loved to be on the farm, where Pamela worked in the cafe and would help out with basic tasks like collecting eggs.

Over three years have passed since that devastating day, but a still heartbroken Pamela now smiles as she remembers her fun loving boy.

“He was a practical joker,” she said, “always having fun and so full of energy,

“He used to play football at school,” Pam said. “But I would have to laugh at him because he was only small and all the shorts were too big for him - they’d be down to his knees!

“He was a lad. He liked the usual boy stuff, scooters, bikes. He was very active, not really bothered about playing video games really. He liked doing things. He liked taking things apart and seeing how they worked - he was always looking for things to do.”

And some of those things Harry liked to keep himself busy with could be quite mischievous - especially playing tricks on his mum.

“He was a joker, forever playing practical jokes. He would put washing up liquid down the toilet and when all the bubbles were overflowing, you would just hear the giggles coming from the other room. That was just Harry. Mischievous, playful, full of life.”

In 2014 Pamela began raising money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance which fought to hard to save Harry as it flew him to LGI after the accident.

Called the Harry Forever Young fund, thousands of pounds have been raised for the vital emergency service, which, Pamela thinks Harry would have been proud of her for.

She said: “I did a sponsored parachute jump and all I could hear in my mind was Harry’s voice telling me I shouldn’t be doing it! He’d be saying “Mum, you are not doing that.”

“But that was what he was like - he was pretty much scared of everything. He acted brave, but he was frightened.

“He was also like a little sheepdog, always rounding people up, making sure they were where they needed to be.”

And although he was a typical, inquisitive boy, Pam said he knew his boundaries.

“All kids can be reckless at times, but he knew where he should and shouldn’t go. If somewhere had a gate - he knew not to go through it. If there was a sign saying people weren’t allowed - he would not go through. He would never climb over gates or walls - he would probably pull himself up to take a look over, but would never go anywhere if there was a sign telling him not to.

“Harry was well-known in the village which brought some comfort after the accident. He wasn’t just ‘a lad’ from the village. “He was Harry. And everyone knew Harry.

“He was always out having fun. He was never quiet. But now it’s just too quiet. Just that one moment and everything we knew has all gone.”