Sean Rigg: Five Metropolitan Police officers to face gross misconduct charges over mentally ill man's death

UK

Five officers will face gross misconduct charges over the death of a mentally ill man in custody, the police watchdog has announced. 

Sean Rigg, who suffered with schizophrenia, died from cardiac arrest at London’s Brixton police station in August 2008, after being heavily restrained by officers.

An inquest later found that unsuitable and unnecessary force had been used on the 40-year-old.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), formerly known as the Independent Police Complaint’s Commission, has directed the Metropolitan Police to begin hearings against five officers involved.

It said questions need to be answered about why they had allegedly failed to identify Mr Rigg was suffering from mental health problems, failed to protect him from harm, and failed to treat him once it became clear he was ill.

But one of the five may not face the charges after he made a successful High Court challenge to the grounds of his suspension from the Met.

PC Andrew Birks, who has been suspended on full pay since 2014, could now apply to retire from the force, putting him beyond the reach of its disciplinary process. He has since become a Church of England priest.

IOPC regional director Sarah Green said she had directed the Met to bring the charges against Mr Birks and four other officers last month. In February she further directed that two of the officers should face disciplinary hearings over allegations they “knowingly misled” an inquest into Mr Rigg’s death and the IOPC during its investigation.

Both directions were made public during the High Court hearing.

Mr Rigg – who was living in a hostel in Balham, south London, at the time of his death – was arrested after allegedly smashing up a gazebo and making karate moves that hostel staff found threatening.

In 2012, an inquest concluded that police left him unattended face down in a van, with his hands bound, for eight minutes. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

His sister Marcia Rigg-Samuel said she and her family “welcomed” the decision to bring charges.

She said: “As we approach 10 years since my brother died following unnecessary and unsuitable restraint, we hope that the hearings will take place as soon as possible and provide some much-needed accountability. Ten years on and my family is still suffering delay after delay.”

She added that she hoped a decision on Mr Birks’ resignation could be made “immediately”.

She said: “The only sensible decision in the public interest, with the gross misconduct charges having been directed by the IOPC, is for PC Birks to remain suspended, so that he can face those charges.”

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