Metropolitan police officers accused of 'gross dereliction of duty' over Sean Rigg death

 

Metropolitan police officers have been accused of a “gross dereliction of duty” for placing a mentally ill man in a potentially fatal position in the back of a police van, an inquest heard.

Sean Rigg, 40, died in the caged area of Brixton police station in August 2008 around an hour after being physically restrained and arrested by four constables.

The officers were accused at Southwark Coroner’s Court of placing the handcuffed Mr Rigg face down in the prone position, with his legs bent back touching his buttocks in the small caged foot well of the police van, which they all denied.

This ‘hog-tied’ position poses a serious risk of positional asphyxia as it restricts a person’s ability to breath, the jury has heard. The risk of asphyxiation is intensified if the person is suffering from acute mental breakdown, has been agitated or restrained for a lengthy period - all of which applied to Mr Rigg.

The four arresting officers, who had already given earlier this month, were ordered back for further questioning after a crucial briefing that took place hours after the death only came to light during evidence two weeks ago.

The jury and the Rigg family only learned of the meeting involving the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Police Federation and Department of Professional Standards after PC Mark Harratt mentioned it during his evidence. An internal memo produced by the IPCC following the meeting had not been disclosed until last week.

The credibility of the officers was questioned by the jury as they tried to make sense of the contradictory evidence they have heard about what happened that night, and from what they have seen on CCTV footage.

PC Richard Glasson was unable to explain why he had told the court the mobile computer in the van was not working when the jury have evidence that information was sent and received that evening.

After several attempts by the jury to understand the discrepancies Leslie Thomas QC asked: “I’m going to suggest to you PC Glasson that the reason there is confusion in the documents is simply because you are lying about the MDT... do you accept that?”

“No sir.”

PC Mark Harratt was accused by Leslie Thomas QC of changing his evidence after being “tipped off” about CCTV footage shown to the jury since his last appearance, which the officer denied.

The four officers were unable to explain why the IPCC has provided a record of facial injuries documented on the night of Mr Rigg’s death, when they had all told the jury that they had not seen any injuries.

Mr Thomas asked PC Andrew Birks: “I am going to suggest to you that you put Mr Rigg in the foot well, in the prone position and that explains the injuries on his face, and because of his height he was put with his legs bent up, touching his buttocks.”

“I don’t accept that.”

“If you had put him in that position it would have been quite wrong...it would have be a gross dereliction of your duty officer, do you accept that?”

“It is a hypothetical question but yes it would have been a dereliction of my duty.”

In another example of conflicting evidence which the jury must consider, Sergeant Andrew Dunn told the jury that he had gone out to the police van in the station yard to check on PC Matthew Forward, who had been assaulted during the arrest, and saw Mr Rigg sitting on the back seat, looking perfectly fine.

About an hour later, PC Forward told the jury that Mr Rigg was in the foot well of the van for the whole time at the station, and he did not recall Sergeant Dunn attending the van or asking him anything.

The officers were also asked to explain the CCTV footage showing their van “blue-lighting” it from the station, swerving to avoid other cars and driving on the wrong side of the road, if as they had previously told the court, they had not seen the urgent police log regarding a 999 call about Sean Rigg “running amuck” on the streets.

All the officers insisted that they had no idea that the man they had arrested was Mr Rigg, known to Brixton police as a man with a long history of violence during psychotic breakdowns, until much later.

Sergeant Dunn, who sent the officers on the job, told the inquest that he had made the link  between the man “running amuck”, the man arrested and the man in the van because it was a “reasonable assumption to make.” 

The hearing continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee