Glasgow bin lorry families in legal aid struggle

THE families of people killed in the Glasgow bin lorry crash are struggling to pay for lawyers to represent them during the fatal accident inquiry, it has emerged.

A sheriff said that it was not essential for the families to have separate representation. Picture: Robert Perry

Six people died in the tragedy on 22 December last year when a Glasgow City Council bin lorry crashed into pedestrians in the city centre.

A preliminary hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday heard how several of the families of those killed in the crash were having difficulty getting legal aid for the inquiry.

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Lawyers representing the families of Jacqueline Morton, 51; Gillian Ewing, 52; and Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, 68 and 69 respectively, and their 18-year-old granddaughter Erin McQuade, all spoke of problems with applications for legal aid.

Stephen Dryden, speaking on behalf of Mr and Mrs Sweeney and Ms McQuade, said: “Again, there’s a difficulty at the present time with legal aid.

“An application for full legal aid has been lodged.”

He added that it was important the family be “included in this inquiry”.

The lawyer representing Ms Ewing’s family echoed Mr Dryden’s sentiments, adding: “Full legal aid is still not available to the family of Gillian Ewing.

“I appeared pro bono previously. There are concerns that the family have engagement in this process.”

When told by Sheriff Principal Craig Scott, who is hearing the inquiry, that it was not “necessary” for the families to each have separate representation, Mr Forsyth said: “There may not be complete synergy between all the families.

“All of the public bodies have been given separate representation.

“The family are entitled to instruct their own solicitors.”

The family of victim Stephanie Tait, 29, was also represented in court, and a number of members of each family were present.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC, acting for the Crown, said: “I think it’s extremely important if the families are represented, they are represented in full.”

The lawyers representing the families also said that due to the delays in legal aid being granted, they had not been able to see all of the evidence and so were unable to say if they would be ready for the inquiry’s proposed start date.

Also in court were lawyers for the bin lorry driver Harry Clarke, Glasgow City Council, the DVLA and several doctors. A lawyer also appeared for two workers who were on the bin lorry at the time it crashed, as well as a GP who saw Mr Clarke in April 2010.

The fatal accident inquiry, due to begin on 22 July, will look at the technical side of the bin lorry as well as the route it took and the medical history of the driver.

The Solicitor General said expert reports have been prepared on both of these aspects. Family representatives said they were also looking to commission their own reports.

The inquiry will also examine whether anything could have been done to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

The inquiry is expected to last up to five weeks and a further preliminary hearing has been set for 18 June.

At that time, the court will hear if it can begin in July.