A police officer under investigation following a mentally ill man’s death in custody has been told by the High Court he cannot resign from the force to become a vicar until he has faced a misconduct inquiry.
PC Andrew Birks, who was working at Brixton police station in south London when musician Sean Rigg died, has been suspended while the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) carries out inquiries.
An inquest jury found in 2012 that police used “unsuitable” force after arresting Mr Rigg, 40, in nearby Balham for attacking passers-by and officers six years ago.
PC Birks, 39, had wanted to leave the force to become a Church of England minister. Senior officers initially agreed to let him resign, but changed their decision after the IPCC said this would allow him to avoid any potential disciplinary proceedings – leading to PC Birks mounting a High Court challenge.
PC Birks had first considered joining the priesthood in 2001. He applied for urgent consideration of his High Court claim on the grounds that he was due to be ordained this Sunday to serve in the parish of Portslade, Sussex. He and his wife are already living in church accommodation.
But following a hearing in London, Mrs Justice Lang yesterday dismissed the action brought by PC Birks. The judge said “the public interest requires that he should remain in the force to answer any charges of misconduct which may be brought against him and the other officers involved”.
She described it as an “exceptional” case in which PC Birks “is required, against his wishes, to remain a serving police officer for an indeterminate period of time, which I accept could be as long as two to three years if the IPCC finds there is a case to answer”.
Welcoming the ruling, Mr Rigg’s sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said the family hoped the decision would set a precedent for others “who face the same dilemma as my family have following a death in custody” and “avoid upset and anguish when an officer leaves the police service before an investigation into his or her conduct is complete”.Reuse content