An inquiry into a bin lorry crash which killed six people will begin next month despite a request from the lawyer of one of the bereaved families to delay it.
The fatal accident inquiry (FAI), which will start on July 22, will examine the tragedy which happened in Glasgow city centre days before Christmas last year.
Erin McQuade, 18, her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and his 69-year-old wife Lorraine, all from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, died when the truck lost control in Queen Street on December 22.
Stephenie Tait, 29, and Jacqueline Morton, 51, both from Glasgow, and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, were also killed when the vehicle mounted the pavement before crashing into the side of the Millennium Hotel in George Square.
At a hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court today, Mark Stewart QC, representing relatives of Mr and Mrs Sweeney and Ms McQuade, asked for the inquiry to be adjourned for three months to give him more time to prepare.
He told the court that he only became involved on June 10 after legal aid was granted, which he said gives him a very short time to come to terms with a vast amount of paperwork.
He said: “There are voluminous papers which themselves contain a vast amount of factual data and complex technical data, and time is required to get through this.”
At the last court hearing on May 18, representatives for the family told the court of difficulties in the process of accessing full legal aid.
Mr Stewart also said the fact the inquiry is due to take place during the school holidays will present problems for some of the family who have children to look after.
John Beckett QC, who will hear the FAI, said that while understanding the family’s position, he took into account the views of the other families and parties represented, whose view was either neutral or that the inquiry should proceed on July 22, the date which was originally set down for the inquiry in March.
He added: “This inquiry proceeds in the public interest and it’s generally thought to be in the public interest that any lessons learned from the FAI are learned and disseminated as quickly as possible.
“Having considered all of the interests involved and the public interest, I consider that the inquiry should proceed on July 22.”
Sheriff Beckett has replaced Sheriff Principal Craig Scott, who withdrew from overseeing the inquiry after realising he knew one of the victims.
The inquiry will focus on the driver’s medical background, his fitness to hold a licence and his employment record and training.
It will examine whether anything could have been done to bring the lorry to a controlled stop and explore the route it took, as well as considering technical aspects of the vehicle itself.
Scotland’s second most senior law officer, Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC, who will lead the inquiry, said she intends to start the inquiry with visual evidence such as various DVDs.
Paul Reid, representing Harry Clarke, the driver of the lorry, said his client will co-operate fully in the inquiry and answer all questions on the understanding that he will not be prosecuted over the incident.
Ms Thomson reiterated the statement issued by the Crown Office in February when it said Mr Clarke would not be prosecuted.
She said: “The Crown made a public statement on February 25 that the driver will not be prosecuted in respect of this tragic incident.
“Despite its catastrophic consequences, there is no evidence to suggest that the driver’s conduct at the time amounted to a breach of the criminal law.”
Ms Thomson said she expects the FAI to take about three weeks; however, other lawyers gave different estimates, saying it could last five or six weeks.
As well as the families, other parties represented at the inquiry include the DVLA, Glasgow City Council, the two passengers in the bin lorry and various doctors.