QC says Crown ‘jumped the gun’ in not prosecuting bin lorry driver

Brian McConnachie QC
Brian McConnachie QC

The Crown’s decision not to pursue the driver in the Glasgow bin lorry crash has been criticised by a former senior prosecutor.

Brian McConnachie QC said the Crown Office “jumped the gun” in not pressing charges against Harry Clarke, adding that there was sufficient evidence.

Mr Clarke has started giving evidence at the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) but refused to answer numerous questions in order not to incriminate himself.

Lawyers for one family seek a private prosecution of the driver and have applied to the High Court for permission.

Were it to go ahead Mr Clarke’s statements in the FAI could be used against him at a trial.

Sheriff John Beckett QC rejected an attempt by Mr Clarke’s advocate to have the FAI adjourned to allow the legal steps towards a private prosecution to be taken.

Mr McConnachie, a former principal advocate-depute between 2006-2009, told BBC Scotland the decision now looked to be wrong.

He said: “On the basis of what we have heard from the inquiry, it does seem to be the case that they have very much jumped the gun in making the decision not to prosecute the driver.

“I don’t know whether they felt there was some urgency because of the circumstances of the tragedy that happened that caused them to take that decision so quickly.

“But with hindsight, I would be very surprised if they are not now thinking that it was not perhaps their best idea.”

He added there was a prima facie case for Mr Clarke to be charged with causing death by dangerous driving or, failing that, the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

But the prospect of a private prosecution now means that the FAI will likely end without Mr Clarke giving any significant evidence.

The Crown Office maintains it was fully aware of evidence led at the inquiry and the relevant information taken into account over the decision not to prosecute.

A spokesman said: “It is clear on the evidence at the time that the driver lost control of the bin lorry, resulting in the tragic deaths, he was unconscious and therefore not in control of his actions.

“He did not therefore have the necessary criminal state of mind required for a criminal prosecution.

“In addition, the Crown could not prove that it was foreseeable to the driver that driving on that day would result in a loss of consciousness.

“This still remains the case and all the relevant evidence regarding these points was known to Crown Counsel at the time the decision to take no proceedings was made.”

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