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Glasgow bin lorry crash driver 'broke bond of trust'

Published 03/08/2015

Harry Clarke was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control
Harry Clarke was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control
The fatal accident inquiry is being held at Glasgow Sheriff Court

The driver of a bin lorry which crashed killing six people broke a "bond of trust" with his employer by deliberately failing to disclose his medical history, a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) has heard.

A witness agreed with the suggestion from lawyer Peter Gray QC as the inquiry into the Glasgow tragedy entered its third week at the city's sheriff court.

Harry Clarke, 58, was driving the council truck in Glasgow city centre on December 22 last year when it went out of control, with witnesses reporting that he appeared to lose consciousness at the wheel.

The FAI looking in to the tragedy has already heard that Mr Clarke had a history of health issues including fainting, dizziness and stress dating back to the 1970s.

It has been told he did not disclose his medical history on various occasions, including when he completed a health questionnaire as part of his job application to be a school bus driver for Glasgow City Council in 2010.

Mr Gray, representing the local authority, cross-questioned Geraldine Ham, a human resources manager at the council, as she gave evidence to the inquiry for a third day.

He put it to the witness that for a recruitment process to work effectively the would-be employee has to provide "honest and accurate" information, and the references given to the employer must be similarly accurate.

Referring to Mr Clarke, the QC said: "In a number of occasions and a number of material respects, he was not truthful about his medical history, is that correct?" Ms Ham agreed.

"On one view, would you agree that it would appear that the lack of candour appeared to be deliberate?"

"Yes," replied the witness.

Mr Gray continued: "The bond of trust so important between employer and employee - if it's accepted, what is contained in the medical records - has been fundamentally broken between the council and Mr Clarke. That must be a possibility, isn't it?"

Ms Ham replied: "Yes.

Earlier, the inquiry heard claims that there were "significant shortcomings" in the council's recruitment procedures at the time the driver got his first job at the authority.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing the family of crash victim Jacqueline Morton, talked the witness through various employment documents and put it to her: "At the stage that Mr Clarke was employed by the council to transport children with special needs, we can see significant shortcomings in the council process for recruitment."

Ms Ham said the local authority tried to ensure that the necessary employment processes were in place.

Ms Bain said the inquiry has seen that where Mr Clarke ''doesn't tell the council the truth, the recruitment process was not adequate in order to prevent his employment''.

The witness agreed.

The QC went on: ''For that reason you would agree, I presume, that the recruitment process wasn't adequate?''

Ms Ham responded: ''There's room for improvement.''

Another lawyer, Ronald Conway, representing the family of crash victim Stephenie Tait, said the inquiry would hear that Mr Clarke is not a "monster of depravity or a criminal mastermind" but someone who "lied repeatedly to get a job and keep a job".

He added that "there are lots of Mr Clarkes out there".

During questioning by advocate Paul Reid, representing Mr Clarke, the inquiry heard how some of the issues for which Mr Clarke had been disciplined at a previous bus-driving job centred around time-keeping or setting off in his bus a few minutes early.

He also noted that Mr Clarke returned to work earlier than anticipated after an absence over a health issue.

Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died from multiple injuries after being hit by the truck.

Ms Tait, 29, and Ms Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed as the lorry travelled out of control along Queen Street and towards George Square before crashing in to the side of the Millennium Hotel.

The Crown Office ordered an FAI into the crash after prosecutors ruled there was no evidence to warrant criminal proceedings.

The inquiry continues.

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