Prosecutors in dock for another bin lorry tragedy

Scotland’s prosecutors have come under serious criticism over the way they handled evidence in another fatal bin lorry crash.

CCTV showed Maurice Willis trying to stop the lorry

Families of those who died in the Glasgow tragedy last December have already condemned the state prosecutor for failing to bring charges against the HGV driver, Harry Clarke.

Now, a sheriff has alleged the procurator fiscal’s office - part of the Crown Office - went out of its way to heap blame on the driver of another out-of-control bin lorry crash exactly a month before.

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Maurice Willis, 58, was crushed by his own vehicle as he and a colleague collected bins in South Queensferry on November 22 last year.

His fatal accident inquiry earlier this month was shown harrowing CCTV footage of Mr Willis desperately trying to climb back into his cab to halt his Biffa truck, which had begun to move while he was outside.

The coverage of him stops as the vehicle crashes into a Jaguar car, street furniture and mounts the pavement before colliding with two buildings and coming to rest on the edge of a pier.

It’s believed Mr Willis was crushed between the lorry and a stone pillar. He was still conscious when medical help arrived, though he was complaining of sore legs and stomach.

He suffered a heart attack as the ambulance was five minutes away from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and despite efforts by medical staff, Mr Willis died a few hours later.

Now, Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC says that the procurator fiscal “set up” a reconstruction of the accident three months later to pin the blame on the dead driver.

Sheriff Welsh said the evidence of the reconstruction was “highly speculative” and should never have been presented at a fatal accident inquiry.

He wrote: “The procurator fiscal led this reconstruction evidence without objection. I can understand why the employer would not object to this because the sole purpose of the exercise, it seemed to me, was to establish that Mr Willis was the author of his own misfortune.

“Had the family been independently represented, I consider this chapter of the evidence would have been objected to and I can well understand why.

“I formed the distinct impression the reconstruction was set up to confirm a conclusion already reached rather than to test a hypothesis.

“I consider this exercise was designed to establish the driver was solely or partly at fault for what happened.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “We note the sheriff’s determination.”