THE driver of a bin lorry that killed six people after it crashed in Glasgow city centre will not be prosecuted over the incident, the Crown Office confirmed last night.
Harry Clarke was behind the wheel of the local authority refuse truck when it lost control and ploughed into shoppers three days before Christmas last year. Prosecutors concluded that no charges should be brought against the 58-year-old driver or Glasgow City Council.
The Crown Office said a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the causes of the tragedy will take place “as soon as possible”, a development that has been welcomed by victims’ relatives.
Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents, Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine, 69, all from Dumbarton, died in the incident in the city’s Queen Street and George Square on 22 December. Primary school teacher Stephanie Tait, 29, and tax worker Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed when the truck mounted the pavement before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel.
The police report into the crash, in which a further ten people were injured, was sent to prosecutors on 29 January.
The Crown Office said yesterday that its decision over how to proceed followed careful consideration of the report by its most senior lawyers.
They found that there was no evidence to support any prosecutions.
In a statement, the Crown Office said: “Crown counsel have concluded that the driver of the bin lorry should not be prosecuted in respect of this tragic incident.
“Despite its catastrophic consequences, there is no evidence to suggest that the driver’s conduct at the time amounted to a breach of the criminal law. There is no evidence to support a prosecution of Glasgow City Council in respect of any health and safety concerns breaches in health and safety law.”
Crown lawyers have decided that an FAI should be held “to ensure that there can be a full public hearing of the facts of the case”.
They will petition the courts within two weeks for the inquiry to be held as soon as possible.
Relatives of those who died have been informed of the decision not to bring a prosecution and to hold an FAI “to determine the cause of the crash and establish what lessons can be learned from this tragic incident”.
Earlier this month, Mr Clarke said he had fallen unconscious at the wheel and could not remember anything about the crash.
The driver also said that he understood that those who had lost loved ones in the incident and others who were injured wanted answers about exactly what happened.
Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, which represents many of the victims, said the confirmation that an FAI is to be held will “begin the process of finding out what happened to cause this terrible accident which is of the greatest importance to the victims and their relatives”.
He added: “My clients and I are particularly heartened that the Crown has moved so quickly towards convening an FAI.
“It has often been the case that years can pass before an FAI is set up.
“This leads to further anguish to victims and their families. Therefore the Crown is to be commended for its swift action, which reflects huge public concern about this incident.”
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We will provide any assistance the inquiry needs.”
The Crown said it would not be appropriate to speculate on whether the driver had suffered a heart attack at the wheel, adding that the causes of the accident will be “judicially determined” at the fatal accident inquiry.
All of those injured in the collision were discharged from hospital in the weeks following the accident.
The Crown was able to make a relatively prompt decision in the case because it did not have to wait for external agencies to carry out any of the investigative work.
David Green, head of the specialist Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit at the Crown Office, has been tasked with leading preparations for the FAI and liaising with the families of those involved.
The courts will now decide on a place and time for the inquiry to be held.
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