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Officers fail to have misconduct case thrown out in Sean Rigg case

Panel chairman did heavily criticise police watchdog for its failings in the decade-long case
Published - 01/02/2019 By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle

Five officers involved in the detention of a mentally-ill musician who died in custody have failed in their bid to have misconduct cases against them thrown out.

Sean Rigg, 40, who had schizophrenia, died in Brixton police station in 2008 after being restrained.

Police Constables Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward, Mark Harratt and Sergeant Paul White, tried to get disciplinary proceedings dismissed primarily because it had taken too long to bring their cases.

But a Metropolitan Police misconduct panel ruled today they could face a fair hearing, despite the passage of time and their memories of the events failing, and ordered the cases to continue.

Panel chairman Commander Julian Bennett did, however, use his decision to dismiss their applications to heavily criticise the police watchdog for its failings in the decade-long case.

He said the delays caused by the Independent Office for Police  Conduct, as its predecessor the Independent Police Complaints Commission, risked "undermining public confidence and bringing it into disrepute".

Mr Bennett said the watchdog had been "highly incompetent" and its first investigation was "significantly overshadowed by inexcusable and unjustifiable delay".

"Members of the public are likely to be aghast," he added.

Mr Rigg was arrested in Balham, south-west London, in August 2008 after he was allegedly seen bare-chested while aiming karate kicks at members of the public for no apparent reason.

He was restrained in the prone position by three officers for more than seven minutes, and later died at the station after suffering a heart attack.

Despite Mr Rigg's behaviour, it is alleged that the constables did not recognise he was experiencing an episode of mental ill health and therefore failed to ensure his wellbeing.

All five officers are accused of misconduct over Mr Rigg's arrest and treatment in custody.

Glasson, Forward, Harratt and White are further accused of giving dishonest accounts of what happened.

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 White.

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

Birks has been suspended on full pay since May 2014 and White since July 2015, while the other three have been on restricted duties.

All five officers deny the misconduct charges.

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