30 May 2014

Sean Rigg death investigation – Met officer suspended

The Metropolitan Police has suspended an officer involved in the arrest of Sean Rigg, who died in custody in 2008, after rejecting his resignation request.

The Metropolitan Police has decided to suspend PC Andrew Birks, one of the officers involved in the arrest of Sean Rigg, pending an investigation into Rigg’s death in custody in 2008.

Rigg died after being held at Brixton police station. He was arrested for allegedly attacking passers-by and police officers in Balham, south London.

PC Birks’s original requested to resign from the Metropolitan Police was accepted by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. This meant the officer would not be subject to any investigation into his role following Rigg’s death.

However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) informed the Met it wished to serve a notice of investigation on the officer. The Met has now decided to suspend PC Birks.

‘Unique circumstances’

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said:

“This is a unique set of circumstances. In light of the public interest in this case, the need for public confidence in the accountability of police officers and in the interests of allowing a full reinvestigation to be most effectively carried out, the MPS has now suspended the officer.

“Following the suspension of the officer the MPS has reconsidered his resignation request and the Deputy Commissioner has decided to rescind his resignation.”

This is the first time the IPCC has called on the Met to change its decision about allowing an officer to resign.

Flawed investigation

The original IPCC investigation into Sean Rigg’s death was shown to be flawed following an independent review. The judge at the inquest into Rigg’s death also delivered a narrative verdict that contradicted the IPCC’s findings.

The first investigation into Sean Rigg’s death was described as wholly inadequate by the campaign group Inquest. The coroner at Rigg’s inquest said the amount of force used to restrain him was unsuitable.

The IPCC has reopened the disciplinary and criminal investigations into Rigg’s death, but the serving of notices to officers involved has been delayed because of “matters at the administrative court”, according to an IPCC statement.

Call for law change

The family of Sean Rigg said they were delighted by the announcement, and added:

“The commissioner should now take the opportunity to suspend all the other key officers including the custody sergeant to ensure all comply with the independent disciplinary investigation by the IPCC.

“Our family now calls on the government to change the law so that other families do not have to threaten court action to stop officers resigning to avoid being held to account.”