Lord Advocate defends decision not to prosecute Harry Clarke

Harry Clarke. Picture: PA
Harry Clarke. Picture: PA
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The Lord Advocate has defended the decision not to prosecute Glasgow bin lorry driver Harry Clarke, as he insisted that the findings by a sheriff that he repeatedly lied about his medical history did not undermine it.

Mr Clarke had lost consciousness when the truck careered along a busy street in the city centre on 22 December last year, killing six people.

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.

However, Scotland’s top law officer Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland insisted that the fatal accident inquiry’s on Monday did not undermine the decision of the Crown Office not to prosecute.

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”.

Mr Mullholland, answering questions on the issue at Holyrood yesterday (Tues), told MSPs that the decision not to prosecute Mr Clarke might not have been popular with the public but it was correct.

“No evidence emerged at the fatal accident inquiry that the Crown was unaware of,” he said.

“There was nothing that emerged in the judgement of Sheriff Beckett that the Crown was unaware of and nothing in Sheriff Beckett’s judgement undermines the decision taken not to prosecute the driver of the bin lorry.”

The Lord Advocate added: “The Crown well appreciates that this decision was not a popular one but the Crown cannot take decisions on the basis that they are popular but wrong in law.

“That would be unconstitutional, an abuse of process, and would rightly result in severe criticism by the court and a loss of confidence in the Crown.”

The Crown’s decision not to prosecute anyone over the crash led to the FAI which was held over five weeks at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

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.

Mr Mullholland, when asked about the private prosecution being pursued by one family said he could not comment on that.

However, he said if and when such a bill was lodged seeking a private prosecution then the Crown would “carefully consider that and what its position is and make that clear to the court and the families”.