Police rapped over man's death
Published 01/08/2012 | 16:12
The police have been criticised by an inquest jury for using an "unsuitable level of force" before the death in custody of a schizophrenic.
Sean Rigg, a physically fit 40-year-old musician, was being held in the back of a police van at Brixton police station in south London when he died of cardiac arrest on August 21, 2008.
An inquest jury found that officers used "unsuitable" force after arresting Mr Rigg for attacking passers-by and police officers in Balham, south London.
Reading the jury's narrative verdict after the seven-week process at Inner London South Coroner's Court, coroner Andrew Harris said: "The level of force used on Sean Rigg whilst he was restrained in the prone position at the Weir estate was unsuitable. In addition, there was an absence of leadership. This led to a failure to take appropriate control of the situation."
The jury found that police restrained Mr Rigg in the "prone position" for eight minutes while he was being arrested, a length of time that "more than minimally" contributed to his death.
South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM) was also criticised for failing to organise a mental health assessment for Mr Rigg in the period leading up to his death and for the crisis plans that were in place to deal with him.
The mental health hostel in Fairmount Road, Brixton, where Mr Rigg was living was praised for the "good treatment and care" it provided to him there. But it had failed to have adequate crises plans in place and should have been more "proactive" in communicating with his family and clinical team, the jury found.
Mr Rigg's sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, 48, said in a statement read outside court the family's pain had been compounded by the evidence police gave during the hearing. She added: "Sean was a fit and healthy man who died less than an hour after being picked up by the police. Nothing will bring him back but we want to know that justice will be done. Those responsible must be held to account for Sean's death."
Ms Rigg-Samuel said the family's next step would be to have meetings with the Independent Police Complaints Commission and police, claiming the verdict was just the start of their "quest for justice". Mr Rigg's brother, Wayne Rigg, said the family would like to see sanctions against the officers involved.
Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne later apologised "unreservedly" for Mr Rigg's death and "fully appreciated" the jury decided police officers lied over what happened, but insisted lessons had been learned. He told BBC Two's Newsnight all the officers involved were still serving, but said the Crown Prosecution Service and the Independent Police Complaints Commission watchdog would review the case.