The driver of a bin lorry which crashed in Glasgow killing six people repeatedly lied about his medical history, a sheriff has found.
Harry Clarke had lost consciousness when the truck careered along a busy street in the city centre on 22 December last year. A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) found the accident might have been avoided if Mr Clarke had told the truth about his medical history after it emerged he had previously blacked out while at the wheel of a stationary
Sheriff John Beckett QC found the 58-year-old had “repeatedly lied in order to gain and retain jobs and licences”, and “deliberately concealed relevant information from the DVLA”.
He found eight “reasonable precautions” – all relating to Mr Clarke’s medical past – whereby the accident might have been avoided and has made recommendations which could reduce the chance of another such tragedy from happening. Sheriff
Beckett made a total of 19 recommendations, including calling on transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to hold a consultation on whether doctors should be given more freedom to report fitness-to-drive concerns directly to the DVLA.
In a written determination, Sheriff Beckett said yesterday: “The most effective measure to prevent such an occurrence would be to seek to avoid drivers becoming incapacitated at the wheel.
“Responsibility in that regard lies with drivers themselves and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
“It may well be that the single most useful outcome of this inquiry would be to raise awareness of the dangers involved in driving if subject to a medical condition which could cause the driver to lose control of a vehicle.”
Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton; Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow; and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, lost their lives in the crash.
The bin lorry had travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.
The Crown Office has been criticised for failing to bring charges against Mr Clarke.
It said in a statement: “The Crown has repeatedly made it clear there was insufficient evidence in criminal law to prosecute the driver for the tragic deaths which resulted from this accident or for the wider circumstances including the information the driver provided to the DVLA or his employer.
“There are no findings in the determination that undermine the decisions not to prosecute the driver.”
Yesterday a family which lost three members in the Glasgow bin lorry crash confirmed they would go ahead with a bid to stage a private prosecution of the driver.
In a statement relatives of Erin McQuade and Jack and Lorraine Sweeney criticised a decision by the Crown Office not to prosecute Mr Clarke and said they had instructed their lawyers to take action.
The family said: “The family note the press release by the Crown and they contend they were right not to prosecute the driver.
“We firmly remain of the view that they are wrong as is their interpretation of the findings and recommendations.
“As a result we have instructed our solicitor to commence a prosecution against the driver.”
David Wilson, of Digby Brown Solicitors, which represents the bereaved Morton family, said: “The determination confirms so much of what the Morton family and others have known for some time. This was an avoidable tragedy.
“Harry Clarke is not an evil person but he did a series of bad things which led to a tragedy. It’s really important to the families that this type of accident does not happen again.”
“Had he not chosen to lie, he would not have got a job with Glasgow City Council and this tragedy would not have happened. He will have to live with this for the rest of his life.
“Harry Clarke is not unique. There are an unquantifiable number of drivers who are ignoring the advice of their doctors and taking the risk with their own life and the lives of others every time they get behind the wheel.
“The Morton family strongly believe that unless action is taken, more families will have to endure what the Mortons and all the families affected by the crash have suffered since 22 December last year and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives. These families’ lives changed forever that day.”
The inquiry heard evidence over five weeks at the city’s Sheriff Court in July and August this year.
It heard that it took just 19 seconds for the tragedy to unfold.
During the course of the incident, numerous members of the public saw Mr Clarke unconscious, slumped forward in the driver’s seat.
The inquiry also heard he had a history of health issues dating back to the 1970s – including a previous blackout in 2010 when at the
wheel of a stationary bus – but had not disclosed
his medical background
to his employers or the DVLA.
Sheriff Beckett found: “Mr Clarke deceived all three doctors in the hope that he would be able to return to work sooner rather than later so that he would not lose his job.”
• READ MORE: Glasgow bin lorry driver legal action to be lodged