Glasgow bin lorry crash driver denies inquiry question claims

Bin Lorry Crashes Into Pedestrians Causing Fatalities And Casulaties

The driver of the bin lorry that crashed in Glasgow killing six people has denied putting himself before the victims of the tragedy as he refused to answer many of the questions he faced on his first day before a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

Harry Clarke, 58, was behind the wheel of the truck when it veered out of control in the city centre three days before Christmas, with witnesses reporting he appeared to lose consciousness.

An FAI into the accident is in its fifth week at Glasgow Sheriff Court and Mr Clarke is the last remaining witness to give evidence.

But in answer to the majority of questions put to him in the morning, Mr Clarke responded: "I don't want to answer that" or "No comment".

He had earlier been told that he did not have to answer any questions which might incriminate him.

Sheriff John Beckett QC issued the warning to the driver because he could still face a private prosecution brought by the family of one of the victims.

During questioning, Mr Clarke was asked by Solicitor General Lesley Thomson, the QC leading the inquiry: "Do you understand that by choosing not to answer you are putting yourself first?"

He replied: "I wouldn't agree with that."

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were all killed on December 22 as the lorry travelled out of control towards George Square before crashing in to the side of the Millennium Hotel.

The inquiry has heard evidence that Mr Clarke has a history of dizzy spells and fainting which he failed to disclose to the DVLA and on job application forms.

This included an apparent blackout at the wheel of a stationary bus in April 2010 when he was a driver with First Bus.

There were sobs from a family member as Mr Clarke was led into the witness box.

Sighs could be heard from the families when Mr Clarke repeatedly answered early questions with the words: "I don't want to answer that question."

While Mr Clarke did respond to some questions put to him by the Solicitor General, he refused to answer the majority of the questions she asked him on topics such as his employment and medical history - and the day of the crash itself.

"Do you know that six people died on December 22?" Ms Thomson said.

Mr Clarke replied: "I don't want to answer that question."

When asked if he knew details about the six victims, Mr Clarke replied "No".

"Do you know that these families have been in court to hear answers?" Ms Thomson asked him.

Mr Clarke responded: ''I would imagine they would want answers, yes."

Ms Thomson continued: "I'm asking you questions because we all want answers to why it happened that day."

"I understand that," Mr Clarke replied.

During subsequent evidence, the witness was asked to look at his medical records dating back to June 1976 which listed periods of dizziness and ill-health.

After an interjection by his lawyer and another warning from the sheriff, Mr Clarke said: ''I don't wish to answer any more questions.''

The witness was also asked about his time as a driver with First Bus, where the inquiry has heard he worked before joining Glasgow City Council in 2011.

He said he did not remember being spoken to by his depot manager about his sickness rate but did recall being off work for a spell.

Shown a sick pay form, Mr Clarke said: ''April 2010 I was off sick, that was the time with First Bus.''

He was later asked about an incident on April 7 2010 when he is said to have blacked out at the wheel of a bus in Glasgow.

He was asked: "Do you recollect an incident where paramedics came to see you after a medical incident on a bus?" He said he did not want to answer.

Asked if he was off work that month because a doctor said he was fit to return only for non-driving duties, he said: ''No comment."

Before giving evidence, Mr Clarke's lawyer said that he would no doubt find it "traumatic" having questions put to him about the accident.

Ronnie Clancy QC said: ''Mr Clarke should not be expected to have the presence of mind to appreciate the significance of all the questions he is asked."

Mr Clarke appeared before the inquiry after a motion from his lawyer to have the hearing halted was rejected by the sheriff.

Sheriff Beckett said it was in the public interest that the inquiry should proceed.

The Crown Office in Scotland has already decided that Mr Clarke should not be prosecuted over the fatal crash.

But relatives of Ms Morton have indicated that they would seek to bring charges against Mr Clarke.

The inquiry was adjourned until tomorrow.