Negligence hearing set for January over Christmastime crash that killed six people

Harry Clarke

Driver Harry Clarke was unconscious at the wheel when the bin lorry went out of control, killing six people.

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland is reporting that there will be a four-day hearing into whether a bus company acted negligently by failing to provide an accurate reference for Glasgow bin lorry driver, Harry Clarke, is to be held next month.

It comes on the the sixth anniversary of the fatal crash in Glasgow city centre which caused the death of six people.

Mr Clarke worked for First Bus before working for Glasgow City Council.  No criminal prosecutions were ever brought.

The action has been brought by the council against First Glasgow (No.1) Ltd. It is seeking a total £446,012 from the transport firm.

Lawyers for the council claim First Glasgow failed to disclose that Mr Clarke, 63, lost consciousness at the wheel of a bus in 2010.

Mr Clarke, from Glasgow, had a history of health issues dating back to the 1970s – including a previous blackout in 2010 when at the wheel of a stationary bus – but had not disclosed his medical background to his employers or the DVLA.

He was driving the refuse lorry which struck and caused the deaths of six people in the city centre on 22 December 2014 after he blacked out.

The lorry had travelled along the pavement in Queen Street before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.

(Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash
(Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the bin lorry crash

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, all died in the incident. Fifteen people were injured.

Crown Office lawyers decided not to prosecute Mr Clarke on the basis that he had a medical condition and there was no evidence to show he broke the law.

The families of those who lost their lives after the incident tried to raise a private prosecution against him.

They argued that Clarke had made “misrepresentations” about his medical history to the DVLA and to his employers.

However, senior judges did not allow the prosecution to proceed.

The scene of the crash
The lorry mounted the kerb before coming to a stop at the Millennium Hotel.

Glasgow City Council also suffered a setback in its action against First Glasgow after another hearing last year at the Court of Session.

Its legal team sought to recover a total of £903,714.40 from First Glasgow.

In those proceedings, the council’s lawyers claimed the alleged failure to disclose the information about Mr Clarke passing out meant the firm breached a duty of care to the dead pedestrians.

However, Lord Ericht ruled against the local authority. In a judgment issued by the court, Lord Ericht said there was no legal basis for the company to be held responsible for breaching a duty of care for the dead pedestrians.

The proceedings going ahead on 12 January will be conducted using video conferencing technology.

Crash victim Jack Sweeney was a well-known and popular man in Dumbarton, where he played football in his youth for St Michael’s Boys Guild in the West End. That is him in the centre, front row, His father, Eddie, was the team manager and is second from the right in the back row.

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