Sean Rigg: London musician's death prompted 'cover-up' among police officers, hearing told

40-year-old man with schizophrenia ‘should’ve been treated as a medical emergency,’ says lawyer

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Monday 04 February 2019 20:58
Sean Rigg died in police custody in 2008
Sean Rigg died in police custody in 2008

Police officers tried to “cover-up” the death of a music producer who was offered no medical treatment despite showing clear signs of mental illness after being taken to a station, a misconduct hearing has been told.

Sean Rigg, who suffered with schizophrenia, died after being detained by officers responding to reports that he was semi-clothed and aiming karate kicks at strangers.

The 40-year-old was arrested in Balham before he was taken to Brixton police station in August 2008. He was restrained in the prone position by three officers for more than seven minutes and later died after suffering a heart attack.

Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward and Mark Harratt, constables with London's Metropolitan Police and custody Sergeant Paul White are facing misconduct charges more than a decade later.

Apart from Mr Birks, they are all accused of lying about the events in order to mask their behaviour to the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the jury at Mr Rigg’s inquest.

Gerard Boyle QC, representing the force, said multiple witnesses reported Mr Rigg acting as if in the grips of a mental crisis and if officers had searched the police computer for the name on his passport they would have found his medical history.

Instead, Mr Riggs was unjustifiably arrested on suspicion of stealing the passport, cuffed and held face-down in the prone position for an “excessive” period, the lawyer said.

Mr Boyle added: “It was obvious Mr Rigg must have been suffering from mental health problems and that he should’ve been treated by the officers as a medical emergency. It’s simply staggering that the officers did not consider the role of mental health issues.”

They should have been aware that if there is “any doubt” of such an issue that the detainee should have been taken to A&E and not the station, he said.

Their “egregious failure” to do anything for Mr Rigg became “more unforgivable” when they failed to help him when he was slumped on the floor in the station, Mr Boyle added.

Mr White, the custody sergeant, expressed a “cavalier and lackadaisical” attitude to Mr Rigg and falsely assumed he was under the influence of drugs or “feigning” his condition, Mr Boyle said.

The QC said: “In an attempt to cover up their behaviour, Glasson, Harratt, Forward and White have lied to investigating officers and / or a jury.”

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At the 2012 inquest into Mr Rigg’s death, jurors found that officers had used “unsuitable” force against him. The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against any of them, other than one count of perjury against custody officer Mr White.

He was cleared of the charge in 2016, having been accused of lying to the inquest into Mr Rigg's death.

All five officers deny the misconduct charges.

The hearing continues.

Additional reporting by Press Association