Glasgow & West Scotland

No references found for Glasgow bin lorry crash driver

Harry Clarke and crashed bin lorry
Image caption The bin lorry driven by Harry Clarke crashed after going out of control and killing six pedestrians

The Glasgow bin lorry inquiry into the deaths of six people has heard the driver had no references on his file and was suspended from his former job.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told Harry Clarke was suspended from First Bus on 28 December 2010 and started work with Glasgow City Council on 5 January 2011.

Mr Clarke was at the wheel of the bin lorry when it killed six pedestrians in Glasgow city centre in December 2014.

The inquiry is examining the bin lorry, its route and Mr Clarke's health.

The court previously heard that 58-year-old Mr Clarke was unconscious at the wheel as the Glasgow City Council bin lorry went out of control on Queen Street, killing six pedestrians and injuring 15 others.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry heard Mr Clarke had his driving and lorry licences reinstated in April but they were revoked again last month.

Fit to drive

On the seventh day of the FAI, which is being overseen by Sheriff John Beckett QC, the court heard evidence again from Mr Gellan, an area manager with Glasgow City Council's land and environmental services department.

He was questioned by Ronald Conway, lawyer for the bereaved Tait family.

The inquiry heard that on 29 April this year Mr Clarke had his car and LGV licences restored.

It was said that he was therefore deemed fit by the DVLA to get back behind the wheel of a bin lorry.

Mr Conway put it to Mr Gellan that there was never the remotest chance that the council would allow him to drive, if he made an application.

Image caption Douglas Gellan was giving evidence for a second day at the inquiry

Mr Gellan replied: "We made the decision not to."

Mr Conway added: "Just because he got his licence back does not mean that you think he is fit to drive a long goods vehicle?" The witness replied: "No."

Mr Gellan agreed with the lawyers assertion that it was the council's vehicles and therefore the authority's "duty of care".

It later emerged that Mr Clarke had both his licences revoked again in June.

'Unsatisfactory' attendance

Correspondence from 2009 was later read to the court in which Mr Clarke appealed against a formal final warning from his then employer, First Bus, over his attendance.

The First Bus response rejects his appeal and appears to tell Mr Clarke that his attendance was "unsatisfactory" and lists his absences.

Mr Conway said that if this was accurate it would have made Mr Clarke a "deeply unattractive candidate" for a council driving job.

The lawyer asked Mr Gellan if he would have hired Mr Clarke based on this evidence.

The witness replied that he could not make an assumption but all the evidence he had been shown "would be taken into consideration".

Image caption (Clockwise from top left) Jack Sweeney, Lorraine Sweeney, Erin McQuade, Jacqueline Morton, Stephenie Tait and Gillian Ewing were killed in the crash

Mr Conway then asked if Mr Gellan had asked himself last night: "How on earth did we hire this man?"

The witness replied that he did think about it.

During Mr Conway's cross-examination, it later emerged that there were no references on Mr Clarke's employment record with Glasgow City council.

This led to the lawyer stating to Mr Gellan: "Someone has blundered, either at First Bus, or at Glasgow City Council carrying out a grossly incompetent employment process."

'Documents misfiled'

The inquiry later heard from Geraldine Ham, a human resources manager with Glasgow City Council.

Ms Ham told the FAI that some "council paperwork" on Mr Clarke had not yet been found, adding: "Sometimes documents are misfiled."

She told the court that Mr Clarke was taken on as an "assisted support for learning driver". This involved driving children to and from school during term time.

Mr Clarke's paper application form, which was dated July 2010, was then shown to the court.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Six people were killed and 15 others injured when the council bin lorry crashed in the centre of Glasgow

It stated that he obtained his LGV licence in 1984 and did his Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in 2009. He also had three penalty points on his licence.

In the application for the council bus driving job, Mr Clarke said he "would be as comfortable as the passengers on the bus" in the role.

Mr Clarke listed previous employment as an LGV driver doing "general haulage work".

His application stated that he had been driving LGVs and buses for 33 years "with no serious endorsements".

'Very reliable'

Mr Clarke said in the application that he was "fit, good at working with members of public and very reliable". He said he would be "asset" to council.

Mr Clarke also declared on the application form that he did not consider himself to have a disability.

He also signed a declaration on the form which noted that "false information or omissions may lead to dismissal".

Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, all from Dumbarton, died in the incident in the city's Queen Street and George Square.

Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed when the truck mounted the pavement before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel.

A further 15 people were injured.

The Crown Office has already concluded that there will be no criminal prosecution over the crash, with senior lawyers deeming it a "tragic accident".

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