Glasgow bin lorry driver ‘would have lost licence’

Driver Harry Clarke. Picture: Contributed
Driver Harry Clarke. Picture: Contributed
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The Glasgow bin lorry crash driver would have been advised not to drive had he seen a heart specialist after an earlier blackout at the wheel, an inquiry heard yesterday.

The medical history of Harry Clarke, 58, came under the spotlight again at a fatal accident inquiry into the crash just before Christmas last year which claimed six lives.

Mr Clarke would have been told he should not drive

Dr Nicholas Boon

Consultant cardiologist Dr Nicholas Boon, from Hertfordshire, was asked to prepare an expert report by solicitors acting for the family of victim Jacqueline Morton, 51.

The inquiry, being held at Glasgow Sheriff Court, has heard that former First Bus driver Mr Clarke reported blacking out at a bus stop in April 2010.

Dr Boon, 64, was asked to describe the scenario if he had been referred to a cardiologist following that episode.

The expert said it was likely Mr Clarke would have been diagnosed with vasovagal syndrome, which affects the heart rate and blood pressure.

He said: “In my opinion Mr Clarke would on balance of probabilities have been told that he should not drive and that he should report the matter to the DVLA.”

Dr Boon concluded in his report: “If Mr Clarke had been referred for specialist evaluation of the event of April 2010 it is likely that he would have been advised to report the matter to the DVLA and that his vocational driving licence would have been revoked for a minimum of three months.”

The inquiry has heard Mr Clarke has a history of fainting and dizzy spells dating back to the 1970s and failed to note them when required on job application forms. He is said to have given different accounts to doctors following the 2010 incident, telling one that he had fainted in his work canteen.

Witnesses to the bin lorry crash reported seeing the driver slumped at the wheel as the vehicle lost control on Queen Street before crashing into a hotel on George Square.

Dr Boon said he made his conclusions having had access to Mr Clarke’s full medical history.

Solicitor general Lesley Thomson QC, leading the inquiry, suggested nobody assessing the driver would have had this full history.

Asked if there was a solution to this, Dr Boon said there were confidentiality issues and any record system would always rely on disclosure by the individual.

He said: “At the end of the day, the computer only contains what you put into it.”

The expert said Mr Clarke should have been referred to a specialist after the “significant” incident in 2010, however.

Dorothy Bain QC, acting for the Morton family, said doctors had reached their conclusions based on what the driver had told them, including that he had fainted “while waiting for his lunch in a hot canteen”.

She said that if Mr Clarke had given the same information to all of the doctors, “we might have had a different outcome?”

Dr Boon said: “Yes, it’s true.”

The Crown Office ordered the inquiry after ruling there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings. Relatives of the victims have raised the prospect of a private prosecution.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died when they were hit by the runaway truck. Ms Morton and Stephenie Tait, 29, from Glasgow, were also killed along with Gillian Ewing, 52, from ­Edinburgh.