Custody death case review published
Police could face misconduct proceedings over the way they dealt with a musician who died in custody, in the wake of a new review.
Sean Rigg died in August 2008 while he was being held at Brixton police station and last year the inquest into his death found that officers had used "unsuitable force". They had arrested the 40-year-old schizophrenic for attacking passers-by and police officers in Balham, south London.
On Friday, a review found that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) should look again at whether police officers should face misconduct proceedings for the way they dealt with him. The review, led by criminologist Dr Silvia Casale, was set up by the IPCC to re-examine its own investigation into Mr Rigg's death, which was slammed by his family as "extremely poor and ineffective".
The report found: "The review recommends that the IPCC reconsider the conduct of the police officers involved in the apprehension, restraint and detention of Mr Rigg, in relation to possible breaches of their duty of care, with a view to determining whether to bring misconduct proceedings."
It said the watchdog should look at the length of time Mr Rigg was restrained in a prone position, whether officers ignored signs that he was mentally ill and whether they looked after him properly when he was confined in a police van.
The watchdog should also look again at four officers' claims that they did not know Mr Rigg was mentally ill, the report said, when he had been acting strangely and was known to police. They had found his passport, wrongly assumed it was stolen and failed to run background checks to find out who he was. The review said: "The four officers did not check the name on the 'stolen' passport with police records that would have flagged Mr Rigg's mental health needs and could have alerted them to the fact that the person they were dealing with was actually Mr Rigg. He was well-known to the police through repeated past contact with the police and mental health services."
When the officers were later interviewed by the IPCC about why this had happened, Police Federation representatives behaved "inappropriately" by batting off questions, the review found.
The IPCC is currently reviewing whether misconduct proceedings should be brought against the officers involved and will set out an action plan to address other issues highlighted by the review. IPCC chairwoman Dame Anne Owers said: "We are already taking a critical look at the way we investigate deaths in general and this specific review, and the lessons to be learnt from it, will play an important part in the way that we develop and change our approach."
Welcoming the review, Mr Rigg's sister Marcia said: "Almost five years after Sean's unnecessary death, my family's pursuit of justice and our dignified determination to arrive at a truly clear picture of what happened to Sean on August 21 2008 has hopefully contributed to real and positive change into the way the IPCC and all key agencies should fulfil their obligations, by law, into a death in custody so that no other family should ever have to endure the pain, grief and anger we and other families have endured."
As part of a separate inquiry, two serving and one former police officers were arrested in March over allegations around evidence that they gave to Mr Rigg's inquest. The two serving officers were arrested on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice and the retired officer on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. They are due to answer bail later this month.