The most senior police offer involved in the arrest of Sean Rigg may not resign from the force ahead of an investigation into the musician’s death in Brixton Police station, a High Court judge ruled today.
PC Andrew Birks had applied to resign from the Metropolitan Police (Met) in May, meaning he would have escaped scrutiny of his actions by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
But, following pressure from Sean Rigg’s family and the IPCC, the Met eventually rescinded his resignation, and Birks launched a judicial review into the refusal.
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.
According to the BBC, High Court judge Mrs Justice Lang said today in her ruling: “Given the gravity of the allegations against the claimant, namely, that his actions caused or contributed to a death in custody, the public interest requires that he should remain in the force to answer any charges of misconduct which may be brought against him and the other officers involved.”
Sean Rigg’s sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said: “I and my family hope that this will now set a precedent for other families who face the same dilemma as my family have following a death in custody, and avoid upset and anguish when an officer leaves the police service before an investigation into his or her conduct is complete.”
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.
A spokesperson for the Met said today said the service respected the decision of the judge. He added: “Six years after Mr Rigg’s death, his family and our officers are still waiting for a conclusive outcome. There has been much speculation about what took place on the night that Mr Rigg died, but what is important now is that there is a full and thorough investigation based on evidence to finally establish the facts.”
Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity Inquest, said in May that avoiding disciplinary proceedings by resigning or retiring is “part of a systemic problem that allows the police to remain above the law.”
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.