FAI: Not Enough Evidence To Prosecute

7 December 2015, 13:35

A fatal accident inquiry into the Glasgow bin lorry crash which killed six people almost a year ago makes no findings that undermine the decision not to bring charges against the driver, prosecutors have said.

The Crown Office came in for criticism after it announced Harry Clarke, the driver of the refuse truck which went out of control, would not be prosecuted for the events of December 22 last year.

The Glasgow City Council worker passed out behind the wheel, causing the heavy truck to mount the pavement and crash into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.

Sheriff John Beckett ruled the crash might have been avoided if Mr Clarke had ''told the truth'' about his history of blackouts

The family of one of the victims - Jacqueline Morton - has already indicated they could seek a private prosecution.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "The Crown has repeatedly made it clear there was insufficient evidence in criminal law to prosecute the driver for the tragic deaths which resulted from this accident or for the wider circumstances including the information the driver provided to the DVLA or his employer.

"There are no findings in the determination that undermine the decisions not to prosecute the driver.''

The Crown highlighted part of the determination in which Sheriff Beckett said there was no evidence that any doctor had told Mr Clarke his medical condition means he was unfit to drive prior to December 22.

In addition, the spokesman said that even if Mr Clarke's licence had been revoked after he was said to have blacked out at the wheel of a bus in Glasgow, it would have been returned to him by the DVLA prior to the date of the George Square accident.

Sheriff Beckett said Mr Clarke had ''repeatedly lied in order to gain and retain jobs and licences''.

The Crown Office spokesman said: "It is important to note the sheriff was considering evidence at an FAI where a lesser standard of proof is required and where more relaxed rules of evidence apply.

"A criminal prosecution requires sufficient evidence to the much higher standard beyond reasonable doubt.''

The sheriff made a total of 19 recommendations following the inquiry, which was heard earlier this year, including calling on Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to consult over whether doctors should be given more freedom to report concerns about patients' fitness to drive directly to the DVLA.

He also said the DVLA, Crown Prosecution Service and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should review if there are policies in place which prevent or discourage prosecutions under sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988 which deal with failure to notify the authorities about medical conditions and those who make false statements to obtain a licence

The spokesman said: "The Crown Office welcomes Sheriff Beckett's determination following the fatal accident inquiry into the tragic deaths of the six people who died when a bin lorry crashed in Glasgow city centre last year.

"The determination underlines the need for widespread changes in DVLA practices and procedures in line with the Solicitor General's submissions to the inquiry.

"The Solicitor General wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport in October calling for the DVLA system of self-reporting by drivers to be reviewed.

"The Solicitor General has written again today following the Sheriff's determination to underline the need to overcome the recognised weakness of self-reporting.

"We also note the Sheriff has recommended, in light of these weaknesses, that the Crown, CPS and DVLA should review whether there are policies in place which prevent or discourage prosecution for breaches of section 94 and 174 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

"We will take forward with the DVLA consideration of the detection and reporting of these offences.''

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "There is nothing we can say that will ease the pain and suffering of the bereaved, but our primary concern throughout has been for the families of those who lost their lives and those who were injured in this terrible accident, and that will always remain the case.

"Sheriff Beckett has made a number of recommendations and we are now considering how to implement them.''

A DVLA spokesman said: "We are carefully considering the recommendations in the report.''