Hawick widow planning civil action against death crash driver

Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court.

The widow of a Hawick motorist killed by a lorry driver with a history of blackouts is planning to pursue a six-figure civil claim now the crown has ruled out prosecuting him.

James Miller, 64, was killed in December 2015 after trucker John Power crashed into the side of his car on the A7 near Teviothead.

Harry Clarke, driver of the bin lorry that crashed killing six people in Glasgow in 2014.

Harry Clarke, driver of the bin lorry that crashed killing six people in Glasgow in 2014.

This week, a fatal accident inquiry determination criticised a medical expert for letting Power stay on the road despite knowing about his episodes of feeling dizzy at the wheel.

Widow Helen Miller, 65, now hopes to get justice in the civil courts following the fatal crash, likening it to the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy of 2014.

Six people were killed and 15 others injured after that refuse wagon careered out of control, but driver Harry Clarke, also with a history of blackouts, was not prosecuted either.

Mrs Miller, of Hawick, plans to sue Power’s employer, and she said: “I’m glad the inquiry found fault with those involved.

“This man Power reported blackouts to his GP, so why was he allowed to keep driving?

“He shouldn’t have been allowed on the road at all, not just have had restrictions put in place on the kind of vehicle he drove.

“What makes it worse is these exact same issues were highlighted a year before James died because of the Glasgow bin lorry incident, and just like Harry Clarke, this man Power, his doctor and employer have all dodged prosecution.

“Our family has been devastated by this incident.

“It should never have been allowed to happen, and however you dress it up, those responsible are literally getting away with killing someone.”

The four-day inquiry at Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard that Mr Power had been advised by his doctor “not to drive a heavy goods vehicle” after suffering two “disabling attacks” in June and October 2015.

The hearing also heard that Power’s employer, J Dickinson Transport, of Longtown in Cumbria, felt it was safe to keep him behind the wheel as they received a letter from Paul Davies, a doctor with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, saying a Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority technicality meant Power’s pre-1997 licence allowed him to stay on the road despite suffering dizzy turns so long as he switched from an HGV to light goods vehicle.

In his determination, sheriff Peter Paterson said Dr Davies should have more fully considered the DVLA guidance and advised Mr Power not to drive a vehicle of any type.

He then urged doctors to decide if a patient is fit to drive in any way and not just to consider what kind of licence they hold.

The sheriff also said Power and his employer should have sought clarification of the letter before driving again.

Simon Hammond, a partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “We can confirm we are investigating a civil claim on behalf of the family of James Miller against his employer, J Dickinson Transport.”

Mr Miller, a bus driver, died after Mr Power suffered “a sudden loss of disorientation due to a medical event” and his 7.5-tonne lorry veered onto the opposite carriageway on the A7 road near Teviothead in December 2015.

The lorry struck Mr Miller’s Vauxhall Cavalier, inflicting fatal injuries, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Despite that fatality, Power, 65, of Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, was not prosecuted by the crown.