Met officer denies treating man with 'wanton disregard'

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The Independent Online

A Metropolitan police officer who was assaulted by a mentally ill man who later died in police custody has denied treating him with "wanton disregard" because he was angry, an inquest has been told.

PC Matthew Forward insisted that he had carefully monitored Sean Rigg at all times, and that he was conscious and responsive until shortly before he died in the caged area at Brixton police station in south London in August 2008.

PC Forward denied being part of a ruse to cover-up the fact Mr Rigg's had been badly treated and was unconscious at the police station for almost half an hour before a doctor was called. The officer was shown photographs taken by a pathologist after death which show three clusters of bruises and abrasions on Mr Rigg's face. PC Forward told the jury at Southwark Coroner's Court that he had not seen any visible injuries on Mr Rigg.

CCTV footage appeared to show several officers, including PC Forward, carrying out life-saving treatment on Mr Rigg while the Forensic Medical Examiner, a specialist GP, is seen hovering on the edges.

Leslie Thomas QC, acting for the Rigg family, asked: "You said you were struck twice in the head, did that make you angry... Is that why Mr Rigg was treated in that manner… with complete wanton disregard of his safety and well-being?"

He replied: "No sir that's not what happened."

"Looking at this now [the CCTV footage], do you think that you are offering the man the care he deserved?" he asked.

"Based on what we knew at the time, yes I do," answered PC Forward, who was giving evidence for a third day.

PC Forward also denied changing his version of events in order to match what his colleagues had said in their statements.

The barrister acting for the Metropolitan Police Service later asked him: "It has been suggested to you were part of a group of officers who put Mr Rigg into the recovery position for show for the custody sergeant... and after [he] left - you took him out of the recovery position."

"No sir, that did not happen," replied PC Forward. "I was carefully monitoring him."

The inquest continues.