Farmer gets suspended sentence for tractor crash

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A farmer caused a serious accident by driving his tractor out of a field onto a main road with a load of logs in the front bucket. 

Samuel White could not see if any traffic was on the A3079 Okehampton to Holsworthy road, near Hatherleigh, because of high hedges and the arm of the bucket, Exeter Crown Court has heard. 

The bucket went through the front window of a passing Volkswagen Golf, causing the car to overturn and causing a serious head injury to driver Alan Bates. 

Mr Bates spent three nights in hospital and had been left with a scar on his head, memory loss, headaches, and an inability to concentrate for long periods. 

White owns a 40-acre smallholding and was removing a tree which had blocked his normal yard entrance when the accident happened on Sunday, April 26, 2020. 

He was forced to use the public road to reach the yard and discovered after the collision that his NFU Mutual Home and Lifestyle smallholder policy did not include cover for driving the tractor on public roads. 

White, aged 34, of Cookworthy Moor, Halwill, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving and driving without insurance. 

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He was jailed for 12 months, suspended for two years, ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid community work and banned from driving for two years by Judge David Evans. 

The judge told him: “You were attempting to emerge from a field onto a public road without a clear view of the approaching traffic and without putting in place any assistance such as warning signs or stationing someone to warn you about approaching traffic. 

“If these things were not possible, you simply should not have left the field.” 

Mr Bates made a Victim Personal Statement saying he was a lawyer who had moved to Devon from Liverpool shortly before the crash and has been unable to work since. 

Andrew Morrell, defending, said White had no idea he was not insured to drive the tractor on the road until NFU Mutual told him he was not covered. 

Mr Morrell said White is extremely remorseful and that his fiancée would be unable to run the farm on her own if he were jailed. 

A driving ban will also cause him hardship because he will be unable to run a building business when helps pay for the farm, and will have to put on hold plans to expand into country sports and to start a riding centre. 

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