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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015