Police did not regard offences of mentally ill man who died in custody as serious enough to warrant care


The inquest into the controversial death of a mentally ill man has heard how police did not regard his offences as serious enough to warrant their involvement in his care. 

Sean Rigg died in Brixton police station in August 2008 after a 20-year history of serious mental illness which had led to more than 15 hospital admissions.

Mr Rigg, 40, who was described to the jury as an intelligent, charming and creative man by his psychiatrist, was well-known to pose a potential risk to the public when in the throws of a psychotic relapse. Mr Rigg had assaulted several people over the years when hearing voices and experiencing paranoid and delusional thoughts, which would usually happen a few weeks after he stopped complying with his medication, the Southwark coroner’s court heard.

Mr Rigg had not accepted any medication for two months and was displaying signs of a typical relapse when he died.

Explaining why Mr Rigg was not subject to a joint management plan by police and mental health services, consultant psychiatrist Professor Thomas Fahy, said: “There was no formal communication between the mental health team and police for Mr Rigg because his offending was not serious enough for Lambeth [police]… I think if he’d lived in Norfolk or Bromley where there is low offending rates he may have reached the criteria, but in Lambeth and Southwark, in inner-city areas, the criteria are much more demanding.”

The jury heard further evidence about the physical well-being of Mr Rigg at the time of his sudden death.

He was prescribed haloperidol, an antipsychotic, and Viagra, used to treat the sexual dysfunction caused by the haloperidol, which can both cause irregular heartbeats, but was very unlikely in a “fit, slim, healthy young man” such as Mr Rigg, the inquest was told.

Mr Rigg was not known by his doctors to suffer from any heart, or any other physical health problems, though detailed checks were not routinely done.

Doctors are now advised to monitor the heart function by carrying out an annual Electrocardiograph (ECG) for all patients prescribed ant-psychotic medication, though this was not the case in 2008. 

The inquest continues.