Police officer accused of telling ‘a pack of lies’ over death in custody


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The Independent Online

A Metropolitan police constable involved in physically restraining a man who died soon after in custody has been accused at an inquest of telling “a pack of lies” after photographic evidence confirmed he held the detainee's face down for far longer than he claimed.

PC Richard Glasson was one of three officers involved in restraining Sean Rigg, an acutely mentally unwell man, who died in Brixton police station in south London in August 2008.

PC Glasson was accused of using “inappropriate and excessive” physical force on Mr Rigg's back which could have caused him to asphyxiate.

PC Glasson, giving evidence for a second full-day at the inquest in Southwark Coroner's Court, denied holding down Mr Rigg using his knee, elbow or knuckles.

He insisted that he had only used the palm of his hand, despite being shown a photo of a large, fresh bruise to Rigg's back, taken after his death.

Several eye witnesses have told the jury that they saw an officer with his knee in Sean's back for several minutes. After several minutes of watching the incident unfold in a housing estate in Balham, one witness took two digital photos, four minutes apart, both showing the restraint. PC Glasson had claimed the restraint only lasted 30 to 60 seconds.

He admitted to the inquest that Mr Rigg had seven out of eight risk factors for positional asphyxiation which he had learnt in his training, less than two years earlier.

PC Glasson was then accused in failing in his duty of care towards Mr Rigg by not getting him urgent medical help, either by taking him to a hospital when they suspected mental illness or by calling the police doctor immediately.

The officer was asked by the Rigg family barrister to explain why no one got into the back of the police van to check he was okay, despite the fact he had banged his head being put into the van, then slid from the seat onto the floor and was unresponsive.

“He was still visibly conscious and it was still a risk to go into the cage...it was better to go back to the station and get him medical advice,” he replied.

The officer rejected the accusation that injuries to Mr Rigg's elbows were caused by a further restraint in the police van - which had no CCTV.

He was then asked to explain why Mr Rigg was left alone, handcuffed, in the back of the van at the station for 10 minutes before anyone tried to get him out.

“He was still being monitored, he was still conscious,” he replied.

The court was then shown CCTV footage from the caged area of Brixton station in which five officers can be seen crowding round Mr Rigg, who is “lifeless” on the floor. He is briefly put into the recovery position as the custody sergeant approached, but is then, it was alleged, put back into a prone position.

Leslie Thomas QC suggested that Mr Rigg was already unconscious in the van and that the officer wasted the “golden minutes” in which he might have been saved. A doctor saw him 20 minutes after the van arrived at the station.

“Are you telling me that Mr Rigg walked under his own steer, nice and strong from the van to the cage and then all of a sudden collapsed? That's rubbish officer and you know it.”

“No sir.”

“You and your colleagues had no respect for Mr Rigg's life, do you understand?”

“No that's incorrect.”

The court has been told by PC Glasson that they arrested Mr Rigg for allegedly stealing a passport, even though the passport he was carrying was his own. PC Glasson could not explain why none of the officers bothered to check this on the police database, when such a check was a rudimentary part of their training.

PC Richard Glasson said he didn't make any notes or statements about Sean's death following advice from police lawyers and Police Federation, even though he knew that he would be a vital witness to the incident.

“You did not make a statement because you knew that what you and your brother colleagues did was well out of order that night, is that right?”

“No sir.”

The inquest resumes with PC Glasson on Monday.