THE driver of the bin lorry that careered on to a busy city centre pavement and killed six people yesterday refused to apologise after being accused of telling a “pack of lies” about his medical history.
Harry Clarke, who blacked out at the wheel of the vehicle during the tragedy last December in Glasgow, came under a barrage of criticism from lawyers representing the families, but declined to say sorry.
A lawyer for relatives of one of the six victims told 58-year-old the deaths were “all your fault” and he was pressed on why he failed to advise his doctors and employers about a history of ill health, which included dizzy spells and fainting. Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of Jacqueline Morton, a 51-year-old from the city who lost her life on 22 December, told Mr Clarke he had spread a “pack of lies” on job application and DVLA forms in order to keep his HGV licence.
As the driver took to the witness stand for a second day at the fatal accident inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Ms Bain asked Mr Clarke what he hoped someone with relevant information would do if they were attending a similar inquiry into the death of his daughter.
“Given the sympathy you’ve been shown by everyone, do you not have the decency to think of someone other than yourself on this occasion?” she asked him.
Throughout Ms Bain’s questions, Mr Clarke replied: “I don’t wish to answer that question.”
It’s actually all your fault, do you see that?Dorothy Bain QC
The Crown Office ruled out bringing any charges against Mr Clarke ahead of the inquiry but he could face a private prosecution led by victims’ families.
The threat of court action means he has chosen not to answer the majority of questions relating to his medical and employment history, a legal right he exercised again yesterday.
The inquiry has previously heard evidence that Mr Clarke blacked out at the wheel of a stationary bus while employed by First Bus in April 2010.
Ms Bain said it only came to light in February this year when a consultant checked his medical records. He was told at that point not to drive but still had the “audacity” to apply to get his licence back, she said.
The lawyer said: “You should never have been behind the wheel of an HGV and you know that. It’s actually all your fault, do you see that?
“If you had told the truth in 2010, there is every likelihood the six innocent people who lost their lives would still be here today.” Again, Mr Clarke declined to respond to her points.
Ronald Conway, for the family of victim Stephanie Tait, 29, told Mr Clarke that, for his clients, “the clocks stopped” on 22 December, to which he responded: “I fully appreciate that.”
Mr Conway went on: “I’m going to ask that you say sorry to the people that died that day… I want you to say sorry for the lies told in 2010 and that those lies led to the deaths of six people.”
Mr Clarke said: “No, I can’t say that.”
Mark Stewart QC, for the families of Erin McQuade, 18 and her grandparents Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, aged 68 and 69, asked Mr Clarke to take the risk of prosecution “on the chin” and answer questions. Mr Clarke said he did not wish to answer.
Mr Clarke agreed with Mr Stewart when the lawyer asked him if he wanted to answer all the questions but could not due to the risk of prosecution.
Mr Clarke yesterday gave an account of the day of the accident, describing the moment he blacked as “like a light switch.” He was later diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope, also known as vaso vagal syndrome, which affects the heart rate and blood pressure.
Ms McQuade, Mr and Mrs Sweeney, Ms Tait, Ms Morton, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were killed when the lorry driven by Mr Clarke veered out of three days before Christmas.
The inquiry was adjourned until 9:30am on Tuesday.