Family seek Glasgow bin lorry driver prosecution

Glasgow bin lorry crash driver Harry Clarke is expected to give evidence today. Picture: Contributed
Glasgow bin lorry crash driver Harry Clarke is expected to give evidence today. Picture: Contributed
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THE family of a woman killed in the Glasgow bin lorry crash will seek to bring charges against the driver after prosecutors ruled out a case against him.

Lawyers acting for the family of Jacqueline Morton, 51, have requested that an inquiry under way into the 22 December tragedy be halted as they attempt to bring a private prosecution against Harry Clarke, 58.

Telling lies to the medical profession is not a crime

Ronald Conway

Mr Clarke was behind the wheel of the council refuse truck that veered out of control on a busy shopping street, killing Ms Morton, from Glasgow, along with five others.

A fatal accident inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court has heard evidence that Mr Clarke had a history of dizzy spells and fainting which he failed to disclose to the DVLA and on job application forms.

Dorothy Bain QC, told Sheriff John Beckett she had been instructed to seek an adjournment of the inquiry in order to seek authority to bring a private ­prosecution. Funding has still to be secured and it may take up to three months to establish whether they can proceed, she said.

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A lawyer for the family of victim Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, said they supported the motion for adjournment but relatives of 29-year-old Stephenie Tait, from Glasgow, said they would not be involved in any private prosecution.

Ronald Conway, solicitor for the Taits, said public interest would best be served by continuing with the inquiry, which is looking at Mr Clarke’s medical history, the bin lorry and the route it took three days before Christmas.

He said: “Telling lies is not a crime; telling lies to the medical profession is not a crime.”

Jacqueline and Matthew McQuade’s lost their daughter Erin McQuade, 18, and Jacqueline’s grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, in the tragedy.

Their lawyer, Mark Stewart QC, said they reserve the right to prosecute anyone found to carry personal responsibility for the crash.

The Crown Office ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the accident after ruling that there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.

The inquiry, now in its fifth week, will hear from the remaining witnesses before the sheriff makes a decision on Ms Bain’s request on Thursday.

Mr Clarke was expected to give evidence but this has been complicated by the prospect of a private prosecution.

His lawyer said he “wants to answer all the questions that are put to him at the inquiry” but added that his client was entitled to “privilege against self-incrimination”.

Solicitor general Lesley Thomson QC, who is leading the inquiry, said that a private prosecution was a “rare and exceptional beast”, and the development would need to be considered by the Crown. The DVLA last week ruled out taking any action against Mr Clarke, who was a driver with First Bus before taking up a job with Glasgow City Council in 2011.

The inquiry has heard evidence that he blacked out at the wheel of a stationary bus in Glasgow in April 2010.

Doctors diagnosed Mr Clarke with vasovagal syndrome, a condition that affects the heart rate and blood pressure.

Witnesses on the day of December’s crash reported seeing the lorry driver slumped at the wheel as the vehicle mounted the pavement on Queen Street and careered along the road towards George Square where it crashed into the Millennium Hotel.

As the FAI continued, the first witness of the day yesterday was Ian Buick, who interviewed Mr Clarke when he applied for a job as a bus driver at the council in 2010. The 57-year-old witness worked at Glasgow City Council for 28 years until July 2012 and was latterly a transport and logistics manager.

Mr Buick said he conducted job interviews but was not regularly involved in handling references, but the inquiry was shown an e-mail he sent in March 2011 titled “references returned” in which Mr Clarke’s name was included in a list of references that had been collected for him to check.

Mr Buick wrote in the e-mail: “I am satisfied with the content of all the references.”

The inquiry has previously heard that there is no longer any record of Mr Clarke’s reference with Glasgow City Council or First Bus, his previous employer.

The inquiry has also heard Mr Clarke did not disclose previous absences and his medical history in his council job application.

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