Inspector defends handling of prisoner Sean Rigg


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A police inspector in charge of a group of officers when a schizophrenic man died in custody has said he would act “exactly the same” under similar circumstances.

Sean Rigg, a physically fit 40-year-old musician, was held by police after he attacked passers-by in Balham, south London.

Southwark Coroner's Court heard that, despite having seen a number of computer-aided dispatches (CADs) which referred to Mr Rigg by name, and that he had mental health issues, Inspector Andrew Dunn did not treat him with extra care.

The section sergeant, who saw Mr Rigg in a cage in the back of a police van at Brixton police station after he was arrested on August 21, 2008, said he did not marry together pieces of information that would have shown the detainee was at risk.

He told the inquest he was unaware that the man his officers had arrested was Mr Rigg, and did not recognise him from a description when he saw him in handcuffs in the back of the vehicle.

Dr Andrew Harris, Coroner for Inner South London District, asked Mr Dunn if he thought he should have asked the junior Pcs who arrested Mr Rigg if he showed any signs of mental problems.

"Would you agree it was foreseeable that there may have been urgent medical attention needed, and to find out, you would have had to ask that question?" Dr Harris asked.

Mr Dunn replied: "The circumstances that were apparent to me at the time, I didn't feel a pressing need to ask that question."

The coroner said: "It was feasible that medical treatment may have been needed?"

The officer said: "At that moment in time there was not a need.

"In five minutes, circumstances may have changed, but at that time I felt I had sufficient knowledge of the circumstances and it wasn't necessary to call for emergency care at that time."

Mr Dunn told Dr Harris that he had been trained in dealing with detainees with mental health issues, and he was aware of the protocol of taking a person to hospital if they violently resisted arrest in a prolonged manner.

The coroner said Mr Rigg had clearly resisted arrest and was violent, because he had punched an arresting officer, but the question was whether it had been prolonged.

"I'm simply asking," said Dr Harris, "would you have put yourself in a better position if you had have asked that question."

"Yes, sir. I would have been in a better position," the officer replied.

The coroner continued: "You are the one person who has all the information. You have the CADs, therefore if you had asked the question, you might have acted differently?"

Mr Dunn said: "Yes. I was part of a team, but if I had asked that question I might have been able to."

Mr Rigg had a 20-year history of mental illness following a bad acid trip and was a black belt in karate. He had destroyed a gazebo in his hostel's garden in Fairmount Road, Brixton, that afternoon."

He then left his place of residence and was seen practising martial arts moves before becoming involved in a series of altercations with passers-by.

The inquest previously heard that Mr Rigg had not been taking his medication for two months and had a history of problems with the law, both in the UK and abroad.

The coroner asked Mr Dunn: "Do you think, given what you knew, it was appropriate for him to remain in the van?"

The officer replied: "Given what I knew at that time, it was appropriate for him to remain in the caged area of the van with the doors open."

After Mr Rigg was seen by Mr Dunn, he fell ill and was seen by a doctor. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital but before it arrived his condition deteriorated and he was given CPR.

He was formally pronounced dead in hospital later that night.

The police officer also faced questions from the jury.

One member of the panel asked him if he would have done anything differently four years ago.

"It's difficult with hindsight," said Inspector Dunn.

"The circumstances that were there at the time, I have to say I would have done exactly the same."

The inquest continues.