Glasgow bin lorry driver was ‘unfit to drive’

Witness Professor Andrew Rankin leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Witness Professor Andrew Rankin leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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A DOCTOR who assessed the Glasgow bin lorry crash driver for the renewal of his HGV licence in 2011 would have deemed him temporarily unfit to drive if she had known he had fainted the year before, the inquiry has heard.

Harry Clarke, 58, was driving the council truck in the city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control, killing six people including Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh.

Dr Joanne Willox told the fatal accident inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court that she saw Mr Clarke on December 6, 2011 at the request of his employer Glasgow City Council to complete an HGV renewal application form with him which was to be submitted to the DVLA.

On the form, the question “is there a history of blackouts or impaired consciousness in the last five years?” was ticked No.

The inquiry has previously heard that Mr Clarke fainted at the wheel of a stationary bus in April 2010. The question of whether there is a history of “sudden and disabling dizziness or vertigo” in the last year is also ticked No.

The inquiry has been told Mr Clarke has a history of health issues including fainting and dizziness dating back to the 1970s.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC, who is leading the inquiry, asked: “If you had been told by Mr Clarke at that stage ‘I fainted in April 2010’, what would you have done?”

She replied: “I would have made him temporarily unfit for work as a driver, flagged it up to the DVLA, asked for his consent to write to his GP about what investigation had been done and to provide records of that.

“I would have told the city council he was not fit to drive and it would depend on the DVLA to decide about his licence.”

In later evidence, when asked about a disputed “road rage” incident, cardiologist Professor Andrew Rankin said he “struggles to see” how it could be linked to Mr Clarke’s loss of consciousness. He also said fainting could recur outside time limits set out in DVLA guidelines.

Professor Rankin said there was “no clear pointer” that Mr Clarke was going to suffer loss of consciousness.

He said it was “likely” that he could have had an HGV licence in 2014 as the previous incidents had been so far in the past. He said the “vast majority of people would not have had another episode”.

Another cardiologist, Dr Nicholas Boon, said that if Mr Clarke blacked out without warning at the wheel of a stationary bus, his licence should have been revoked.

But he also said it was possible that Mr Clarke could have had an HGV licence in 2014 even if the 2010 episode had been disclosed.

The FAI has previously heard evidence that Mr Clarke suffered episodes of dizziness and fainting for decades before the fatal crash on 22 December, when several witnesses reported seeing him slumped behind the wheel on the bin lorry as it went out of control in the city centre.

The inquiry continues.