Sean Rigg death: Police officers who restrained musician who died in custody deny misconduct

The 40-year-old who had paranoid schizophrenia, suffered a cardiac arrest while in a caged area at Brixton Police station

Tuesday 22 January 2019 02:08 GMT
Sean Rigg
Sean Rigg (PA)

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Louise Thomas

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Five police officers who were involved in the detention and death of musician Sean Rigg have denied charges of misconduct.

Mr Rigg died while in custody at Brixton police station in August 2008 after he had been arrested in Balham following reports he was bare-chested and aiming karate kicks at passers-by.

The 40-year-old, who had paranoid schizophrenia, suffered a cardiac arrest while in a caged area at Brixton police station and police officers are accused of failing to recognise he was suffering from a mental health illness.

Police Constables Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward, Mark Harratt and Sergeant Paul White are all accused of breaching standards of professional behaviour.

It is alleged that Mr Birks breached standards in relation to duties and responsibilities, Mr Glasson, Mr Forward and Mr Harratt breached standards in relation to honesty and integrity, use of force, abuse of authority and duties and responsibilities and Mr White breached standards in relation to honesty and integrity and duties and responsibilities.

They all appeared at a Metropolitan Police misconduct hearing on Monday, that was also attended by members of Mr Rigg's family including his sister Marcia.

The hearing was told that the four constables were out on duty in a marked police van when they were called to deal with Mr Rigg.

He ran away when he saw the van, and was eventually restrained in a grass area on the Weir Estate, being pinned down in a prone position for nearly seven minutes.

Around 20 minutes later he was taken into a caged area at Brixton Police station, where he collapsed having suffered a cardiac arrest.

It is claimed that the constables failed to ensure Mr Rigg's wellbeing because they did not recognise that he was suffering from mental health issues, even though he was partially clothed and threatening passers-by for no obvious reason.

They are also accused of failing to ensure he was unharmed because they did not check updates to the call dispatch system that suggested he may have mental health problems, and did not check his passport details on the police national computer.

Mr Harratt assumed the passport was stolen, when in fact it belonged to Mr Rigg.

The four officers and Sergeant White all allegedly failed to get Mr Rigg urgent medical help when it became clear that he was seriously ill.

In terms of the restraint, it is claimed that Mr Glasson, Mr Harratt and Mr Forward held the musician in the prone position for an excessive amount of time, during which one or more of them had their weight on his upper body, even after he was handcuffed.

Four of the officers – Mr Glasson, Mr Harratt, Mr Forward and Mr White - are accused of breaching rules over honesty and integrity and discreditable conduct over evidence they gave to police watchdog investigators and the inquest into Mr Rigg's death.

It is claimed that Mr Glasson and Mr Forward falsely claimed Mr Rigg was moved onto his side when he was held in the prone position; and that they and Mr Harratt gave evidence that he was moving his legs and spinning himself around while in the back of the police van despite knowing that this was untrue.

Mr White incorrectly claimed that he had checked on him in the police van, and changed his evidence to the inquest hearing after CCTV disproved his account.

The 2012 inquest found that Mr Rigg had died from a cardiac arrest, and the jury said that officers had used an unsuitable level of force.

Mr White was cleared in 2016 of one count of perjury over his inquest evidence, and prosecutors have ruled out bringing any further criminal charges against the five officers.

The misconduct hearing was adjourned until 22 January.

Agencies contributed to this report

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