Bin Lorry Crash: No Criminal Charges

25 February 2015, 15:49 | Updated: 25 February 2015, 17:45

The driver of a runaway bin lorry which killed six people should not be prosecuted over the incident, the Crown Office has said.

Harry Clarke, 58, was behind the wheel of the refuse truck when it lost control and ploughed into shoppers in Glasgow city centre three days before Christmas last year.

Prosecutors today concluded that no charges should be brought against the driver or the city council.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the causes of this tragedy will now take place "as soon as possible'', the Crown Office said.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, all from Dumbarton, died in the incident in the city's Queen Street and George Square on December 22.

Primary school teacher Stephenie 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 10 people were injured, was sent to prosecutors on January 29.

The Crown Office said its decision today follows careful consideration of the report by its most senior lawyers.

The service found there was no evidence to support any prosecutions.

In a statement, the Crown Office said: "Crown counsel have concluded that the driver of the 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 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 in the incident 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''.

Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, which is representing some of those affected by the crash, said: "This announcement from the Crown Office is very welcome. It begins the process of finding out what happened to cause this terrible accident, which is of the greatest importance to the victims and their relatives.

"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, if indeed one is set up at all. This leads to further anguish to victims and their families. Therefore the Crown Office is to be commended for its swift action, which reflects the huge public concern about this accident.''

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "We will provide any assistance that the inquiry needs.''

Earlier this month, Mr Clarke said he thought of the victims ''every minute of every day''.

He told the Daily Record that he fell unconscious in the vehicle and cannot remember anything about the accident.

He reportedly said: "I have wracked my brain to try to remember but I can't. I will never know what happened other than other people telling me what they saw. Every day is a struggle.''

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 FAI.

All of those injured in the collision were discharged from hospital in the weeks after the event.

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 (SFIU) at the Crown Office, has been tasked with leading preparations for the FAI, liaising with the families of those involved along the way.

It is now for the courts to allocate a time and place for the inquiry to be held.

Elaine Russell, a partner and specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Scotland's Glasgow office, is representing some of those injured in the bin lorry crash.

She said: "News of the FAI is very welcome but time is absolutely of the essence and the inquiry must happen as soon as possible. There remains a huge number of questions about what happened and it is key that action is taken to understand what can be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again.

"Work must also continue to ensure that victims and any witnesses to the crash are receiving appropriate counselling and support to help them come to terms with what happened.''