No court case over Clutha helicopter crash

24 November 2017, 16:11 | Updated: 24 November 2017, 16:13

Clutha Helicopter Crash

A Fatal Accident Inquiry will be held into the Clutha tragedy but there is "insufficient evidence" for criminal proceedings, prosecutors have said.

Ten people died when a police helicopter crashed onto the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow in November 2013.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said in a statement: "The investigation into the Clutha helicopter crash has reached a significant stage and Crown Counsel, the most senior lawyers in Crown Office, have formally instructed a Fatal Accident Inquiry be held.

"Following submission of a detailed report by the Helicopter Team, Crown Counsel have also concluded that there is insufficient evidence available to justify instructing criminal proceedings."

The statement continues: "In coming to this decision, Crown Counsel have considered the evidence available, and the recommendations of the inquiry team, and an assessment of what information may reasonably become available in the future has also been taken into account.

"Crown Counsel have instructed that the appropriate form of proceedings at this stage is an inquiry into the deaths of all who lost their lives in terms of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016.

"Although the evidence currently available would not justify criminal proceedings, the Crown reserves the right to raise criminal proceedings should evidence in support of that course of action become available to prosecutors."

Prosecutors said they "appreciate that the wait for a decision regarding proceedings must have been extremely difficult and stressful for those affected".

Victims' families have called for a Fatal Accident Inquiry and some have previously criticised the time taken for a decision to be made.

The Crown Office said the police investigation involved a "significant volume" of documents and also relied on the co-operation of oversea agencies to make witnesses and material available.

More than 100 people were enjoying a night out at the Clutha Vaults pub when the police helicopter, returning to its base on the banks of the River Clyde, crashed through the roof on November 29 2013.

Seven customers died - John McGarrigle, Mark O'Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Joe Cusker.

Helicopter pilot David Traill and crew Pc Tony Collins and Pc Kirsty Nelis were also killed.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch report published in 2015 found two fuel supply switches were off and the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.

Earlier this month damages were awarded to people injured in the crash and family members of those killed.

A reported £1.3 million was paid by the owners of the helicopter firm to 10 people injured, while cases brought by 16 others affected were settled for undisclosed amounts.

Compensation claims were made to Babcock for post-traumatic stress, serious brain or spinal injuries.

David Bell from law firm Irwin Mitchell Scotland, which represented 16 cases for damages, said: "The individual cases for those who were injured and the family members of those who sadly died have all now concluded and our clients are seeking to move on from this tragedy.

"But there is still more that can be done and that is why we welcome the announcement of a fatal accident inquiry.

"Alongside our clients, we have long called for a fatal accident inquiry as we believe that there are more lessons to learn, both about the accident itself and its aftermath.

"One of the issues with this crash was the helicopter was not required to be fitted with a black box recorder which means vital data was not recorded.

"We think the regulations should be changed to ensure all smaller passenger aircraft are required to have black box recorders fitted."

Andrew Henderson, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, which represents many injury victims and families of those who died, said the length of wait for an inquiry was "unacceptable".

He said: "While it will be welcome news for our clients that there is now some movement by the Crown Office on beginning the FAI process, it's highly regrettable it has taken so long.

"The whole purpose of FAIs is to make recommendations that will stop similar tragedies happening in the future and therefore the process moving forward in a timely fashion is crucial.

"The fact that the inquiry is likely to begin almost five years after this awful accident is not acceptable.

"This again highlights what my law firm has long argued, which is that the whole FAI system in Scotland needs to be overhauled so that inquires are held more quickly and that bereaved families are at the very heart of the process. I still believe that this is not the case."