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COPFS

The Glasgow bin lorry crash - The decision not to prosecute the driver

Introduction

1. Crown Counsel decided that the driver of the Glasgow City Council bin lorry which collided with and killed six people in Queen Street and George Square, Glasgow, on 22 December 2014, should not be prosecuted.

2. This decision was taken after full and careful consideration of all the evidence relevant to criminal responsibility and was made on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to show that he had committed a criminal offence.

Prosecution Decision Making

3. In reaching a decision on prosecution it must be determined firstly whether there is sufficient evidence in law to raise a prosecution. If there is sufficient evidence in law the Crown will go on to consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. In this case there was and remains insufficient evidence in law.

4. Consideration of whether it was in the public interest did not therefore arise.

5. The Crown cannot raise proceedings where there is insufficient evidence in law as it would be regarded, rightly, as an abuse of process.

6. Sometimes our decisions are unpopular but it is our duty to apply the law to the evidence and that was the basis of the decision not to prosecute.

The Decision

7. In this case, as with all very serious cases, the decision not to prosecute the driver followed a detailed and thorough investigation of the incident by the police and a full report to the Crown regarding the relevant evidence, including aspects of his employment and medical history.

8. Crown Counsel concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that he had committed an offence.

9. As such, Crown Counsel were duty bound to take the decision not to prosecute.

The Evidential Considerations

10. In deciding not to prosecute him, Crown Counsel has considered a range of possible offences relating to the events of 22 December 2014.

Death by Dangerous Driving

11. In order to prove death by dangerous driving the Crown requires to prove that the driving fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

12. As the driver was unconscious at the time he was not in control of the vehicle and did not have the necessary criminal intention, unless it could be proved that it was foreseeable that he would lose consciousness whilst driving that day. In the words of the statute (the Road Traffic Act 1988), regard should be had to whether he was aware or could be expected to be aware that he had an ongoing condition which rendered it unsafe to drive that day.

13. Crown Counsel considered that there was insufficient evidence that it was foreseeable that he would lose consciousness whilst driving that day.

14. Crown Counsel has had regard to the following:-

i. The driver had no further blackouts after April 2010 (a period of over 4 ½ years to the day of the tragedy). His work colleagues have confirmed this.

ii. The driver had driven extensively since 2010 without incident. This included public service vehicles, minibuses, gritter lorries and bin lorries.

iii. His work colleagues confirmed that there was no indication that the driver was unwell when commencing driving on the day of the tragedy.

iv. Following the incident in 2010, up to and including the day of the tragedy, no doctor advised the driver that he was unfit to drive. On the contrary, after a short time off work, the driver was advised that he was fit to return to work and to drive. At no point was the driver told to notify the DVLA of the incident.

v. The Occupational Health doctor for First Bus, his employer, who saw the driver after the 2010 incident was aware that the driver had had an episode at the wheel of a bus and, after assessment, did not advise him that he was not fit to drive.

vi. The DVLA policy was that, had the driver become unconscious at the wheel and they had been advised in April 2010, the maximum period they may have revoked his LGV/PCV licence for would have been 12 months and, if there had been no cause for concern, his licence would have been returned and he would have therefore been free to drive. As indicated, the driver had no further episodes until the tragedy.

vii. The DVLA was notified by Police Scotland of the details of the George Square tragedy. It was made known to the DVLA that there had been an incident in 2010. Medical records, which included reference to the 2010 incident, were available for inspection, if requested. Subsequent to this the DVLA returned his driving licences to him.

viii. There was insufficient evidence to establish that the driver intended to cover up a condition - which made him unsafe to drive - for the purpose of deceiving his employers and the DVLA. He had advised his Occupational Health doctor of the April 2010 incident at the time and this information was available in his medical and employment records.

ix. There was no evidence that the driver knew or could be expected to be aware that he had an ongoing condition and was unfit to drive going forward, including the day of the tragedy.

Other Offences

15. The Crown has also considered alternative criminal charges in relation to the wider circumstances of the information which the driver provided to the DVLA and his employer. On the basis of the evidence set out at paragraph 14, Crown Counsel concluded that there was also insufficient evidence in law to prosecute him in respect of these matters.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

August 2015