The Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner has u-turned over his acceptance of PC Andrew Birks’ resignation and suspended him, following pressure from Sean Rigg’s family, the IPCC and the charity Inquest.
Rigg’s family said they were “livid” when the Met accepted PC Birks’ resignation, as it would mean he could avoid scrutiny in a fresh investigation into the death of Sean Rigg in custody in 2008.
Marcia Rigg, Sean’s sister, said: “The Rigg family is relieved that the Commissioner has seen sense to suspend PC Birks and reverse his resignation, so that he can face disciplinary investigations, and possible gross misconduct charges depending on what is found.
“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.”
Birks was due to step down as an officer tomorrow (June 1), but the Met have now intervened after the Rigg family threatened to bring legal action against them.
A spokesperson for the Met said this afternoon: “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.”
The Rigg family and Inquest, who have been working with them to get justice for Sean since 2008, also called for the government to change the law to stop officers resigning to avoid being held to account.
Deborah Coles, the co-director of Inquest, said: “It should not be dependent on the tenacity of a bereaved family and their legal team to ensure that the police are properly held to account for deaths in their custody and are not able to frustrate the justice process in this way.”
PC Birks had his resignation accepted by the Met Chief Commissioner on April 12, despite police watchdog the IPCC serving a Court Order to re-open investigations into him and other officers over possible misconduct in their treatment of Sean Rigg.
The IPCC move followed an independent inquest at Southwark Crown Court, which found that police officers had used an unsuitable amount of force when restraining the musician, who suffered from schizophrenia.
Sean Rigg died of a cardiac arrest in the caged holding area of Brixton Police Station in August 2008, after police officers restrained him in the prone position for more than 8 minutes.
The Met now admit the original investigation was flawed, and the IPCC say that Birks and the other officers involved in the arrest, including Sergeant White and PCs Harratt, Glasson and Forward, may face gross misconduct charges.
Two of PC Birks’ colleagues have been arrested by the CPS on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice during the first investigation.
During the Southwark Crown Court inquest, PC Birks denied having “wasted valuable minutes trying to cover-up” Rigg’s maltreatment after his collapse.