DVLA ‘won’t prosecute Glasgow bin lorry driver’

THE DVLA will not be taking any action against the driver of a bin lorry which crashed in a city centre killing six people, an inquiry has heard.

Harry Clarke, the driver. Picture: Contributed
Harry Clarke, the driver. Picture: Contributed
Harry Clarke, the driver. Picture: Contributed

The lorry driven by Harry Clarke, 58, went out of control in Glasgow on 22 December last year, with witnesses reporting that he appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.

On Wednesday, Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC told the fatal accident inquiry looking into the tragedy that the Crown Office will not be prosecuting Mr Clarke.

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However, the inquiry heard a prosecution of Mr Clarke by the Crown Prosecution Service south of the Border on behalf of the DVLA for failing to disclose his medical history was “under consideration”.

The scene of the crash in Glasgow's George Square. Picture: Robert Perry
The scene of the crash in Glasgow's George Square. Picture: Robert Perry
The scene of the crash in Glasgow's George Square. Picture: Robert Perry

Yesterday, Rhoderick McIlvride QC, for the DVLA, was asked by Sheriff John Beckett about the matter. He replied: “The DVLA recognises that this is a matter for the Crown Office and the DVLA will not be taking the issue any further.”

Earlier, the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court heard the system of applying for an LGV licence from the DVLA is “open to abuse”.

The FAI has already heard that Mr Clarke has a history of health issues including fainting, dizziness and stress dating back to the 1970s and that he failed to disclose his health history to the DVLA and on job application forms.

The inquiry was told yesterday that when someone applies for a Group 2 or LGV licence, there is no system of cross-checking what the applicant says with their GP history.

Solicitor Advocate Ronald Conway, representing the family of victim Stephenie Tait, asked Dr Gareth Parry, a senior medical adviser for the DVLA, whether the system is “open to abuse”.

Dr Parry said: “Yes.”

Mr Conway also asked: “Particularly in the context of Group 2 licences, the current system exposes applicants to a huge level of temptation?”

Dr Parry replied: “Yes, I think there is an opportunity for that.”

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The inquiry heard that GPs are not obliged to notify the DVLA if they tell a patient they are not fit to drive.

Mr Conway also referred to the DVLA at-a-glance guide for medical practitioners dated November 2014, which gives advice on assessing a patient’s fitness to drive.

He said: “I’m suggesting to you that in particular this document in its 2014 format lets down health practitioners and in particular GPs.”

Dr Parry said: “I would not disagree that the guidelines could be looked at.”

The inquiry also heard that Mr Clarke did not disclose his full medical history when he applied for his licence to be reinstated in the spring of 2015.

It has previously been told that he fainted at the wheel of a bus in April 2010.

In the medical declaration section of the application for the renewal of his licence, Mr Clarke ticked a box indicating that he had had a fit or blackout.

The form then asked whether he told the DVLA about this condition before, to which he said: “Yes.”

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However, Dr Parry told the court: “There is no indication that we were told about it.”

Mr Conway said: “There are details of blackout or altered level of consciousness on 22 December 2014. On the face of it, there has been no declaration of the April 2010 event.”

Dr Parry replied: “No there has not.”

Mr Clarke’s licence was reinstated in April 2015 but revoked in June.

In May, Dr Parry was asked to review medical evidence which had been submitted as the process of preparation for the FAI continued.

He said: ‘’We had no further medical information until the FAI process started.’’

Mr Conway said: ‘’There are many FAIs that don’t start till one or two years after the incident.

“It’s possible Mr Clarke would have had a licence in that period.’’

Dr Parry said that had they been aware of Mr Clarke’s medical history, and the view of his cardiologist Professor Andrew Rankin, they would have made a different decision.

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Prof Rankin saw Mr Clarke as a patient in February, and earlier this week he told the inquiry: ‘’I told him in my opinion he should not drive HGVs.’’

Sheriff Beckett has called on lawyers acting for the victims’ families to indicate whether they will seek a private prosecution following media reports.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the family of victim Jacqueline Morton released a statement at the weekend stating that they believe Mr Clarke should be prosecuted by the Crown, challenging its position.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck. Ms Tait, 29, and Ms Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, also died.