Glasgow & West Scotland

Families get legal aid for Glasgow bin lorry private prosecution

The scene of the crash Image copyright PA

Scottish ministers have agreed to grant legal aid to bereaved families who are bidding to stage a private prosecution over the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy.

The Sweeney/McQuade family want Harry Clarke prosecuted as an inquiry found the crash could have been avoided if he had not lied about his medical history.

Mr Clarke will also receive legal aid if judges rule the case can go ahead.

Legal aid will also be given to a driver in another private prosecution over the deaths of two students.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Harry Clarke was unconscious at the wheel when the bin lorry went out of control, killing six people
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 Clarke, 58, was unconscious when the Glasgow City Council bin lorry veered out of control on 22 December 2014, killing six people and injuring 17 others.

Those who died in the crash were Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, from Dumbarton, Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh.

The other case concerns Mhairi Convy, 18, and Laura Stewart, 20, who died after William Payne passed out and his Range Rover hit them on North Hanover Street, Glasgow, in 2010.

An attempt to prosecute Mr Payne was later dropped by the Crown in 2013.

Like the Sweeney/McQuade family, the girls' families have lodged a Bill of Criminal letters with the Crown Office in a bid to start a private prosecution.

Judges have yet to rule whether either case can ago ahead, but the Scottish government has said that it will grant legal aid to both sides in the bin lorry case and Mr Payne in the other case.

It is understood that the families of Ms Convy and Ms Stewart have not applied for legal aid.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Mhairi Convy (left) and Laura Stewart died after being hit by William Payne's car in Glasgow

Announcing the decision, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "In light of the unique and special circumstances of this case, which raises fundamental questions that have not previously been tested in case law, Scottish ministers believe it is in the public interest that all parties are adequately represented.

"As such, ministers have agreed to make legal aid available for the families of the bin lorry tragedy.

"In line with human rights requirements that anybody facing potential criminal prosecution must be legally represented, legal aid will also be made available to the driver of the bin lorry, Mr Clarke, and to Mr Payne in relation to another potential private prosecution in separate case."

Mr Matheson said that the decision to grant legal aid was "not being made on the basis that ministers agree that there was any error in law in the decision by the Crown".

He added: "The lord advocate has set out publicly the basis for the decision not to progress a prosecution following the bin lorry tragedy."

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