A farmer who accidentally crushed his 'loving, caring, kind' four-year-old nephew to death after he fell from a telehandler while illegally riding outside its cab has avoided prison.
Harry Isaac Lee suffered a catastrophic brain injury when he fell under the wheel of a JCB telescopic handler at Sabden Old Hall Farm in Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire, on July 8, 2019.
He was riding on the cab footplate of the tractor, being driven by his uncle, but fell out when the vehicle turned into a field and was crushed by its wheels. Harry, who lived at the farm with his mother and grandmother, was rushed to Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital but died despite extensive attempts to resuscitate him.
Brian Nutter, 51, appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court on Monday after earlier pleading guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was sentenced to 26 weeks' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. Nutter, of Newchurch-in-Pendle, was also ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £5,154.
Peter Hayes, prosecuting, told the court that Harry was passionate about farming and had a 'very close relationship' uncle. The JCB only had a single seat and 'nowhere for any other passenger to sit inside or outside the cabin'. As a result, Harry stood on the step and held on as Nutter drove the short distance from the farm to a field. However, the boy fell from the step and went under the rear wheel when Nutter made a turn, the court was told.
Nutter carried his nephew back to the farm and an ambulance was called, but it was clear he had suffered fatal injuries.
The court heard that an investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive found there were insufficient measures in place to ensure the safety of children on the farm. The probe also found that the tractor was not designed to carry passengers, while it also did not have a functioning seatbelt, there was no door on the cabin and the step that Harry had been standing on had a dent in it - increasing the likelihood of a fall.
A number of enforcement notices were issued and every farmworker had to be given training on how to use quad bikes. Lee Hughes, representing Nutter, told the court that he had been a 'father figure' to his nephew. He said: 'He treated Harry as his own son. He accepted he was guilty of the offence and he takes full responsibility.
'The remorse he expressed in his interview was tangible, he expressed tremendous sorrow, was devastated and hugely tormented with remorse. 'There can be no greater sentence imposed on Brian Nutter than the sentence he imposes on himself and that will continue to live with him till the end of his days. 'He lost a nephew but also a friend in Harry's father.'
Speaking after the sentencing, Harry's mother Sarah Nutter said the family will 'never get over' her son's death. She continued: 'Losing a child at any age is a traumatic experience, but losing a child in such deeply tragic circumstances is completely life-changing. 'The event of Harry's death has and will have a lasting effect that I, and my family, will never get over.
'Farming is a lifestyle and a way of life. If we could go back and make different decisions and do things differently, we would certainly do so. We have had to learn the hard way. 'The dangers to children on farms are often not appreciated when you live with them, but they should be at the forefront of all our minds every single day. 'I hope the effects of Harry's accident will change the attitude of people living on farms and make them think twice about the dangers their children are exposed to and how easily accidents can be avoided.'
Harry's father, Martin Lee, added: 'Harry, so passionate about farming even at four years old, was very much my legacy, the person who would take on the farm. 'Always smiling, Harry had a love for life that brought joy to all those around him and certainly lived his life to the full. 'He was a loving, caring, kind and bright child, full of affection for his family. It is a tragedy that he was needlessly taken from us too soon. His death has traumatised and deeply impacted the whole family.'
Current rules, under the Prevention of Accidents to Children in Agriculture Regulations 1998, prohibit children under 13 from riding or operating vehicles used in farm operations. Children are also prohibited from riding on the footplate of any agricultural machine.
HSE inspector Shellie Bee said: 'This is a deeply sad and upsetting incident for all involved. Harry, a four-year-old child, lost his life in what was a wholly avoidable incident caused by a failure to protect him from farm work activities. 'Harry should not have been in the workplace nor allowed to ride on farm machinery. Farms can appear to be exciting places, but they are busy workplaces with moving machinery and vehicles, livestock, chemicals and many other significant hazards. 'Each year, children are killed and many more are seriously injured as a result of farming work. Often the child is a close relative to those managing and running the farm.
'Harry's family hope that their story will make the wider farming community take steps to fully protect the safety of any child who may be on the farm.'
An inquest jury recorded a narrative conclusion at an inquest into Harry's death at County Hall in Preston in July last year.
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