How tragic tractor death of Harry, 11, revealed a legal loophole

Harry Whitlam, 11, who lost his life in a tractor accident
Harry Whitlam, 11, who lost his life in a tractor accident
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HARRY WHITLAM was just 11 when a slurry tractor accidentally reversed over him on farmland in Rothwell, Leeds, 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 mother Pamela worked in the café and he would help out with basic tasks like collecting eggs.

Over three years have passed since that devastating day, but a still heartbroken Ms Whitlam 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. 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.”

She was speaking after the tractor driver who drank the estimated equivalent of 13 pints of beer the night before he ran over and killed her son on a farm was jailed.

Gary Green, 51, was given 16 months and two weeks in prison at Leeds Crown Court for health and safety violations which contributed to the death of Harry at the farm.

Green was more than twice the legal driving limit when the incident happened in August 2013. He claimed he had drunk four pints in the pub the night before, followed by two cans at home.

But Judge Guy Kearl QC heard that an expert had concluded that Green must have consumed the equivalent of 13 pints of beer before going to bed at 2am.

Green was prosecuted under health and safety rather than road traffic law as he was on private land at the time of Harry’s death.

Mrs Whitlam said of her son: “He was a lad. He liked the usual boy stuff, scooters, bikes. He was very active, not really bothered about playing video games. 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 Ms Whitlam began raising money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance which fought 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, for which, Ms Whitlam thinks Harry would have been proud of her.

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, Ms Whitlam said he knew his boundaries.

She said: “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.”