SLAB: Glasgow bin lorry inquiry delays caused by solicitors’ errors
The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) has said it did not receive the correct information from solicitors relating to the families of those who died in the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy last year and added that officials raised discrepancies nearly a month ago.
SLAB’s comments come as it was revealed at a preliminary hearing into the incident that a number of the families had yet to have their legal assistance confirmed.
It emerged at the hearing on Monday that the family of Jacqueline Morton, who died in the tragedy, was initially refused legal aid.
The lawyer for the daughter of one of the other victims – Gillian Ewing – has been permitted to provide advice and but as yet lacks a legal aid certificate.
In addition, the lawyer for Erin McQuade and her grandparents Jack and Lorraine Sweeney has also said there have been issues in obtaining legal aid for the inquiry.
At the hearing it was also revealed that driver Harry Clarke had seen a GP over a “medical episode” in 2011.
That GP as well as three other medics will give evidence.
Dorothy Bain, Ms Morton’s lawyer, has said independent experts should assess the previous episode.
Two co-workers, Matthew Telford and Harry Toal, who said they were trapped at the back of the cab and were unable to reach the brake, will also give evidence.
A spokesman for SLAB said it had been in close contact with the lawyers of the families “to try and ensure speedy progress with the applications”.
SLAB said it had received three applications, the first being granted on May 1.
However, it added it had not been able to take decisions on the remaining two “as in neither did the solicitor provide all of the information we are required by law to consider”.
The spokesman said: “In one case, the wrong information was submitted and in neither case were the necessary supporting statements provided.
“The first remaining application was received on April 20. We still await the correct information, despite confirming with the solicitor on April 29 that the wrong information had been provided.
“The other application was received on May 7. We advised the solicitor on May 8 that it was missing important information, meaning that the statutory tests for legal aid could not be applied.
“Necessary financial information remains outstanding.”
He added: “There have been no unreasonable delays by SLAB in handling any of these cases, but we cannot take decisions unless and until the information required by law is provided to us.
“As soon as this is with us, we will progress the two remaining applications as quickly as possible.”
But president of the Glasgow Bar Association (GBA), Ross Yuill, said changes to the legal aid system would help in such cases.
He added: “Trials in criminal cases and important procedure in civil cases can be delayed by the system, its incredibly cumbersome and very difficult for people to get their heads around.
“A far more streamlined system fit for purpose in 2015 would be of great advantage.
“What concerns the GBA is access to justice for people using the legal aid system because of the levels of bureaucracy.
“It can be simplified and made easier for the people who use the system. This is about fairness to individuals or families seeking access to justice.”
He added that the court would probably intervene if the Sheriff Principal thought a delay in the grant of legal aid would affect the start date of the FAI.