Tractor driver jailed for killing boy on farm while drunk

Gary Green.
Gary Green.

A farm worker is thought to have drunk around 13 pints of beer the night before he caused the death of an 11-year-old by reversing a tractor into the youngster at a farm in Rothwell.

Gary Green, 52, was today jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety over the incident which led to the death of Harry Whitlam.

Harry Whitlam.

Harry Whitlam.

A court heard Green’s eyes were glazed and he still appeared drunk when he was arrested shortly after the incident, which took place at 9.15am at Swithens Farm, Rothwell, on the morning of August 9 2013.

Green, of Robin Hood, Wakefield, was found to be more than twice the drink drive limit at the time of the incident.

After the tragedy Green claimed to have drunk four pints of beer and two cans before going to bed the previous evening.

But Leeds Crown Crown heard how an expert estimated that Green would have consumed 13 pints between the hours of 10pm and 2am.

Judge Guy Kearl, QC, told Green, who has two previous convictions for drink driving, that his behaviour had been a “flagrant disregard” for the law.

Harry, from East Ardsley, died from his injuries after being struck as Green was reversing the tractor, which had a tank of slurry attached.

The judge said: “This was large heavy machinery which needed to be operated by someone who was fully in charge of all of their senses and faculties.

“This collision could and should have been avoided by the defendant keeping a proper lookout and observations.

“That was not the only cause of the collision.

“In my judgement, had he not been affected by alcohol, his ability to carry out such observations would have been greater.

“The affect of the alcohol would have been to significantly to reduce his ability to control the tractor and trailer and therefore to carry out the proper observations.

“The defendant’s operation of the tractor fell far below the standard expected.”

Andrew Long, prosecuting, described how Harry was a regular visitor to the farm as his mother, Pamela, worked in the cafe which is opened to visitors to the site.

He often accompanied her to work and was well known and popular and enjoyed spending time with the farm hands.

The collision happened after the youngster left the public area of the farm and walking onto the working part where Green was reversing the tractor in a yard.

Mr Long said: “There was a blind spot behind the trailer as he reversed and he had not noticed Harry walking past the tractor and he did not know he was behind the blind spot.”

Another farm worker, John Gill, saw the danger and shouted a warning but Harry was struck by the wheel of the tanker and knocked to the ground before being run over.

The prosecutor said: “There was thereafter a terrible scene in which the defendant and others tried to help Harry and his mother came to the scene and saw Harry injured and unconscious.”

The youngster was taken to hospital but died from his injuries later that day.

After being arrested Green was interviewed and told police officers he had been working 16 hour days because it was harvest time.

The married father-of-three said he had drunk four pints in a pub the previous evening and then had two cans at home before going to bed.

Mr Long said an expert had concluded Green’s alcohol intake would have been much higher.

He said: “In order to have that quantity of alcohol in his system then the defendant must have consumed approximately 13 pints of beer between 10pm and 2am the preceding night.

“The effect of such a level would in his opinion have diminished his attention, judgement and control together with his reaction time and possibly his vision.”

Green pleaded guilty failing to ensure the safety of another at a hearing in July this year.

The case had previously been delayed as there was issues over Green’s fitness to enter a plea.

Michael Collins, mitigating, said Green suffered from depression and had made attempts to take his own live on a number of occasion since the tragedy.

He added that Green now lived as a “recluse” as he was worried about going out in public.

Mr Collins said: “He would not want it to be thought that he was not taking what happened with the utmost seriousness so he remains in his home.”

He said: “The defendant fully accepts the suffering he has brought upon others, that includes the family of the deceased and of course his own family.

“Those are matters from which Mr Green doubts he will ever recover.”

The barrister said Green accepted that he had been drinking the previous evening but not realise he would have to drive a tractor when he turned up for work the next day.

Mr Collins said: “However, he has to accept that he took the decision to turn on the ignition knowing that he had taken alcohol the night before.”