UPDATE 1.30pm May 30: The Met police have just announced that they have “rescinded” the resignation of PC Andrew Birks. He has now been suspended and will be subject to the upcoming IPCC investigation.
The most senior officer involved in Sean Rigg’s arrest has resigned, shortly before the police watchdog’s investigations re-open into the man’s death in custody at Brixton police station.
Police watchdog the IPCC are backing Rigg’s family in calling for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to reject PC Andrew Birks’ resignation.
Rigg’s family are said to be “livid” about PC Birks’ decision, which they say is to avoid being held accountable for his conduct.
Sean Rigg, who suffered from schizophrenia, died of a cardiac arrest in police custody in August 2008 after being restrained in the prone position for more than 8 minutes.
Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg’s sister, said: “It was wrong for the Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, to accept his resignation. He was wholly aware of the position PC Birks was in.
“It is almost 6 years since Sean’s death, and almost 2 years since the inquest and the jury’s damning verdict. Our family should not be denied justice and accountability any longer.”
Ms Rigg added that the family are “extremely alarmed” that the IPCC has not advised the Met to suspend officers involved in the case.
An independent inquest at Southwark Crown Court uncovered “a litany of appalling failures” in police treatment of Rigg, leading the IPCC to re-open its investigations into the officers.
The police officers involved in Rigg’s death were found to have used an unsuitable amount of force while restraining the musician.
Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity Inquest, said that avoiding disciplinary proceedings by resigning or retiring is “part of a systemic problem that allows the police to remain above the law.”
She added: “The government stated only last week that they intended to end this practice. However they first said this early last year and still nothing has been done.”
The initial IPCC investigation into the death found the police had acted “reasonably and proportionately” in their treatment of Rigg, but the Met now admit it was flawed.
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, see here.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Service said the call for PC Birks’ resignation to be withdrawn is being “considered”.