Whitlam’s Law update: Government to tackle farm safety and rural drink-driving

In a recent development for the Whitlam’s Law campaign to change drink-drive laws, Jesse Norman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, has confirmed that the Department for Transport (DoT) intend to deliver a strategic approach to road safety, prioritising rural communities.

Pamela Whitlam, with the support of Switalskis’ Solicitor Amy Clowrey, has been campaigning to change the law to bring the punishment for drink driving on private land in line with the current penalties for drink driving on public land.

The DoT have identified rural road users as one of the priority groups for consideration. They intend to work with rural communities and the farming industry to tackle irresponsible driving behaviour, which will encompass drink driving.

Part of this process is being led by Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work. In the summer of 2018, the Farm Safety Partnership programme began. One of the key campaigns includes improving the safety of children on farms.

The Whitlam’s Law campaign was established after the tragic death of Pamela’s 11-year-old son, Harry Whitlam, who was hit and killed by a farm worker driving a vehicle whilst almost three times over the limit. Drink driving laws cover only public land, and as the farm is private land, the driver could not be prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act.

A private prosecution was eventually brought against the driver under Health and Safety laws, however, he received only a 17 month sentence. Had he been prosecuted under criminal laws, he would have received a significantly longer prison sentence – up to 14 years.

Commenting on the recent development, Amy Clowrey said: “We are pleased that despite the current political climate, the government appears to be tackling issues around road and farm safety. Our next step is to arrange a further meeting with local MP Alec Shelbrooke, to ensure that we are continuing to push for this vital change to drink driving laws.”

Switalskis will continue to lobby on behalf of Whitlam’s Law and support Pamela Whitlam throughout the process.