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Who was Sean Rigg?

Sean Rigg, aged 40, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after he was restrained while in custody in August 2008. Sean was a natural musician and rapper who wrote and recorded his own material, working with many different producers, singers and musicians to produce his debut Album ‘Be Brother B Good’ in 2007. He set up his own record label, ‘Dan Man Records’ with friends from which he released his own music. This showed his strength of character and determination not to be stigmatised by bouts of mental illness. For most of the time, Sean was able to achieve a good quality of life. Although he had a history of mental illness, this didn;t stop him from spending much of his time giving back to the community. 

What happened?

Members of the public called the police in response to observing Rigg displaying "strange behaviour.” Four police officers gave chase to Rigg, who was handcuffed and restrained in a face down position as officers leant on him for eight minutes. Rigg was arrested for assaulting a police officer, public disorder and theft of a passport, which was actually his own. He was then placed face-down with his legs bent behind him in the caged rear section of a police van and transported to Brixton police station. During the journey "his mental and physical health deteriorated." He became "extremely unwell and not fully conscious.” This followed a delay of ten minutes during which he was left handcuffed in a 'rear stack' position, unattended and unmonitored while the van sat outside the station in the car parking area. One of the arresting officers was captured on the station's CCTV claiming that Rigg was "faking it".

Two officers then carried Rigg to the caged area at the entrance to the station's custody suite where he was left placed on the floor "handcuffed and unresponsive." After a further delay of 25 minutes Dr Nandasena Amarasekera, the Force Medical Examiner, was called to examine Rigg, although CCTV later showed that custody sergeant PS Paul White misled the doctor by telling him that Rigg was "feigning unconsciousness." When the Force Medical Examiner checked Rigg ten minutes later, he found that his heart had stopped and he was not breathing. Although CPR was attempted, Rigg was officially pronounced dead after arriving at King's College Hospital.

What was the legal implication?

The the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), investigated the actions of the officers involved when Mr Rigg died. The IPCC was criticised over mistakes it made in its initial investigation but in March 2016, it passed evidence to prosecutors against five police officers. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced later that year that there was "insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction". One officer, Sgt Paul White, did face a trial for perjury over evidence he gave at the inquest. He was found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court in November 2016. The CPS reviewed their decision not to prosecute the officers following a request by Mr Rigg's family but again upheld its decision the following year.

Two of the officers involved have tried to leave the Met, but both were blocked from doing so and suspended. PC Andrew Birks applied to leave the force in 2014 so he could become a vicar but his exit was blocked by the force who instead suspended him on an annual salary of £35,000. Mr Birks, who has now retrained as a priest in Sussex, told the BBC the delays in the case were "inexcusable and actually quite shameful." He said, “I've got no problems being held to account for what I did, and investigated for what happened but I don't expect it to take years."

Sgt White, who was the custody officer, has requested to retire but this was rejected by the force as it would have meant he would have avoided a potential misconduct hearing. The three other officers, all of them PCs, have been on restricted duties.

Further information.

If you want to find out more about  other victims of police and state violence in the UK, click here.

The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where use of force is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where mental health-related issues are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody.

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