Sean Rigg custody death: Policemen fail to have misconduct case dropped

UK
Sean Rigg Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Sean Rigg died while in police custody in 2008

Five Met Police officers who were involved in the detention of a man who died while in custody have failed to get misconduct charges dismissed.

Sean Rigg, who had schizophrenia, died at Brixton police station in August 2008 after he was restrained.

The four constables and one sergeant had argued proceedings should be dropped because it had taken too long to bring the case against them.

But a Met Police panel ruled the men could still face a fair hearing.

PCs Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward, Mark Harratt and Sgt Paul White all deny charges that they breached standards of professional behaviour.

The four were all involved in the arrest and detention of musician Mr Rigg on 21 August 2008.

Image copyright The Rigg Family
Image caption The 40-year-old musician died after being held in the prone position by officers for eight minutes

The 40-year-old, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was handcuffed, forcefully restrained face down and confined in a police van.

After arriving at the station where he had been put in a holding area, he collapsed and died from cardiac arrest.

The misconduct panel ruled that the cases for all five officers should continue despite a risk that their memories about what happened that day may have faded over time.

However, while dismissing their applications, panel chairman Cdr Julian Bennett heavily criticised the police watchdog for being “highly incompetent” in its investigation of the case.

He said the first probe by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), meant the case had been “significantly overshadowed by inexcusable and unjustifiable delay”.

“Members of the public are likely to be aghast,” he said, adding that the failures by the watchdog risked “bringing it into disrepute”.

The IOPC said it welcomed the panel’s decision to continue the case but “we very much regret the length of time it has taken to reach this point.”

“In our view it is vital for public confidence in the police complaints system that a public hearing take place where officers are given the chance to explain their actions,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Rigg’s sister Marcia Rigg said it “would have been a travesty if the case has been dismissed because of the IPCC’s incompetence and delay”.

Image copyright Parish of Portslade and Mile Oak
Image caption PC Andrew Birks has since been ordained as a Church of England priest

The misconduct charges against the five men are:

  • PC Birks is accused of breaching the standards of professional behaviour in relation to his duties and responsibilities
  • Sgt White is accused of breaching standards in relation to honesty and integrity, and duties and responsibilities
  • PC Richard Glasson, PC Mathew Forward and PC Mark Harratt all face allegations they failed to meet standards in relation to honesty and integrity, use of force, abuse of authority and duties and responsibilities

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