Criminologist Dr Silvia Casale to lead investigation in to the death in police custody of mentally ill man Sean Rigg


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The Independent Online

An international expert in the prevention of torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners is to lead an independent review into the way the death of a mentally ill man in police custody was investigated by the police watchdog.

Dr Silvia Casale, former president of both the European and UN committees for the prevention of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, will examine the Independent Police Complaint Commission’s investigation into the death of Sean Rigg.

Mr Rigg, 40, died in the caged area of Brixton police station in August 2008 after he was restrained using “unsuitable force” by four police constables.

The inquest into Mr Rigg’s death highlighted major shortfalls in the IPCC’s investigation which found no fault with any of the officers or processes involved in his care. In August the jury found a series of failings by the police contributed to Mr Rigg’s death.

Dr Casale, along with James Lewis QC and Martin Corfe, a forensic mental health nurse expert, will consider whether misconduct or criminal proceedings against any of the police officers or 999 call handlers should be re-considered. This first ever independent review into an IPCC investigation is expected to report next spring.

The details of the review come as the coroner in Mr Rigg’s inquest makes wide-ranging recommendations to Scotland Yard and South London and Maudsley Mental Health NHS Trust.

Dr Andrew Harris’s Rule 43 recommendations highlight concerns that both organisations have failed to learn the lessons from Mr Rigg’s death.

In his report, which the charity INQUEST today sent to ministers, he writes: “I cannot be sure that staff and officers have an adequate understanding of mental health needs… There is a need for a review of the information and training with respect to the mental and physical health needs of mentally ill prisoners throughout the Metropolitan Police.”

Dr Harris also suggests the Met reflects on “the lack of veracity” in the police evidence to the court and says failures to properly assess Mr Rigg’s needs were of “great concern and not explained”.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said: “We want to ensure that the report’s strong recommendations do not disappear into the ether… It is crucial that Ministers review the Coroner’s report so that the lessons are learned and changes made nationally.”

Mr Rigg's sister, Marci Rigg, said: “Since Sean’s death other people who are mentally unwell have died at the hands of the police. It is essential that all the failings identified at Sean’s inquest are acted upon, so this does not happen to any more families.”