Call handlers admit they could have done more to help mentally ill man who later died in police custody

 

Two 999 call-handlers have admitted to an inquest that they could have done more to alert police about the seriousness and urgency of a situation involving a mentally ill man who later died in police custody.

The inquest into the death of Sean Rigg, who died shortly after being restrained and arrested by officers from Brixton police in South London in August 2008, has heard how five 999 calls from hostel workers where he lived were treated as the lowest possible priority.

Call handler Maurice Gluck, who is recorded telling the hostel manager, Angela Wood, to go and complain to her MP is she was unhappy with the police response, told the jury that people often exaggerated about the seriousness of a situation and at the time he felt the hostel should have been able to cope with Mr Rigg’s psychosis.

Mr Gluck admitted that he had behaved unprofessionally towards Ms Wood, who last week broke down in court as the recordings of her desperate 999 calls were played in court.

Mr Gluck was asked by the Southwark coroner, Dr Andrew Harris, why he did not recognise that a call from a mental health expert reporting a disturbed mentally ill man who clearly posed a risk to public safety required an immediate police response.

Mr Gluck admitted that “in hindsight” he could have made it clearer that this should be treated as an immediate problem but insisted that he had acted properly when grading the call from Ms Wood as ‘no police response required’.

In a tense exchange, the barrister acting for the Rigg family suggested to Mr Gluck that his failure to properly grade the call was down to his irritation with Ms Wood.

Leslie Thomas QC said: “The reality is that you were narked because that woman [Angela Wood] was challenging your authority... she asked for your name... you became aggrieved that she was going to complain about you.”

He replied: “That was not the case.”

Mr Gluck, who also told Ms Wood that he had a psychology degree and was a black belt in karate during the call, told the court how he believed the hostel staff would have been able to deal with Mr Rigg, who was actively psychotic and karate chopping people, by talking him down, and perhaps restraining or giving him medication. The recording shows that Mr Gluck failed to ask the hostel manager whether any of those interventions were possible.

He said: “I know people think that I came across as arrogant or condescending but that was not my intention... I was trying to show her that I understood the situation but perhaps I should have phrased things differently.”

The other call handler giving evidence, Michael Colman, admitted that he had not passed on the fact Mr Rigg had left the hostel and was now wandering around in public, half naked in a disturbed state. The inquest was earlier told that Mr Rigg went on to assault three strangers, by karate chopping them shortly after he left the hostel.

Mr Colman insisted that he did not re-grade the call as ‘immediate’ because he did not want to confuse the dispatchers, and that updating calls using the ‘no police action required’ grading was standard practice.

The inquest will next hear evidence from the arresting police officers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...