A tractor-driving farmworker who ran over a boy has been jailed. It is thought the driver drank some 13 pints of beer the night before the incident.

The boy regularly visited a farm where his mother worked. While parts were open to the public as visitor attractions, working areas were closed off and separated by barriers. The boy was though allowed in the farm’s working areas provided he was accompanied.

The boy was walking toward a member of staff in a closed off area when he was knocked down and killed by a reversing tractor that had a tank of slurry attached.

The driver was breathalysed and found to be 2.5 times over the alcohol limit for driving on a public road.

Drunken stupor

The driver told police officers he had been working 16 hour days because it was harvest time. The self-employed farm labourer went on to say he drank four pints of beer in a pub the night before and two cans at home before going to bed at 2am.

But an expert said the driver’s alcohol intake would have been much higher and that in order to have the level of alcohol in his system found by the breathalyser then the driver must have drunk about 13 pints between 10pm and 2am.

Unsurprisingly, the court heard the driver’s eyes were glazed and that he still appeared drunk when arrested shortly after the incident which took place at 9.15am.

The court was told the farmworker had two previous convictions for drink driving although the last conviction was nine years ago.

Judge critical

The judge said the worker had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the law. He added that large heavy machinery had to be operated by someone fully in charge of their senses. He believed the collision could and should have been avoided by the driver keeping a proper lookout.

He went on “The affect of the alcohol would have been to significantly 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.”

Health & Safety prosecution

The driver was prosecuted under Health & Safety regulations rather than road traffic law because the incident happened on private land.

The farmworker accepted he had failed to ensure the safety of another under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was jailed with immediate effect for 16 months and 2 weeks. The maximum sentence he could have received was two years.

The HSE said it was an extremely tragic case in which a young boy’s life was cut short by reckless behaviour. It stressed “Drink driving legislation does not apply on private land but it does not mean you can blatantly disregard the Health & Safety of those around you when driving heavy and dangerous machinery.”

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