Drink driver escapes lengthy jail term due to legal loophole

Despite being over 2 ½ times the legal alcohol driving limit and killing an 11-year old boy in an accident near Leeds, a self-employed farm worker has been jailed for just 16 months.

Harry Whitlam was visiting his mother, who worked at the farm, when a tractor driver, Gary Green, reversed into him and he later died in hospital.

As the incident was on private land at a farm, it could not be tried under the Road Traffic Act 1988, where maximum sentence is 14 years in jail and a driving ban.

Instead the case was brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under ’Failing to ensure the safety of persons other than employees’ under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974  where the maximum sentence is 2 years. Additionally, as there is no driving ban for such an offence, Green can return to driving immediately on release.

In England, the ‘drink drive limit’ is 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 ml of breath. The accident was at 9.15am and the police advised that Green’s reading was 90 at the scene and then 74 at the police station. He told police that he had drunk around 4 pints of beer at the pub and then 2 cans of beer at home, but expert evidence presented at trial suggested he had probably had around 13 pints before going to bed at around 2am.

Green pleaded guilty to the offence and after sentencing, the Court was told that he had 2 previous convictions for drink driving.

Harry’s mum, Pamela Whitlam, said after the trial “It is not okay for anyone whether on a public road or private land to be drunk and get behind the wheel of a vehicle” and is now campaigning for ‘Whitlam’s Law’ with private land covered by the same drink driving laws as those for public roads.

Her local MP, Alec Shelbrooke, has raised the issue in the House of Commons and also met with the Department for Transport asking them to consider amending current legislation to close this loophole.

Nathan Clay

Nathan Clay

Nathan Clay, Solicitor
Personal Injury & Medical Negligence Department
0113 227 9355

This entry was posted in Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence. Bookmark the permalink.

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