Socialist Worker

Sean Rigg inquest is a battle for justice for those who die in custody

by Hannah Dee
Issue No. 2308

Family, friends and supporters packed into the public gallery at Southwark Coroner’s Court last week for the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg.

Sean died in police custody on 21 August 2008.

Sean’s sisters, Marcia Rigg and Samantha Rigg-David have fought for four years for this inquest.

They hope it will help reveal how and why their brother’s life ended in a caged area in the back yard of Brixton police station.

Marcia Rigg gave a moving testimony about her brother, a musician who had dealt with a severe mental illness for much of his life.

Also in the public gallery were relatives of Seni Lewis, a 23 year old student who died in 2010 after being restrained by up to seven police officers.

He had been seeking help as a voluntary patient at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Croydon. They are awaiting an inquest into how he died.

Alfie Meadows, a victim of police violence on a student demonstration on 9 December 2010, also sat in the gallery.

The Rigg sisters have solidly supported him.

Marcia has pointed out that many people die after suffering a blow from a police baton.

She added, “Thankfully Alfie is here to tell the tale, but sadly people like Blair Peach and Brian Douglas are not.”

The charity Inquest has recorded the equivalent of almost one death a week in police custody since 1990. Some 14 percent of the victims are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds.

Those whose loved ones have died have built determined campaigns for justice—from Janet Alder to Smiley Culture’s family.

They have also continued to expose racism in the police.

A 1,200-strong public meeting in central London last month gave unanimous support to Doreen Lawrence’s call for a public inquiry into police corruption.

A verdict in Sean’s case is expected sometime in July.

The second week of his inquest coincides with the opening of the trial of PC Simon Harwood who is charged with the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson (see left).

Since 1969 a number of inquests have delivered unlawful killing verdicts in cases where people have died in police custody. Yet no officer has been successfully prosecuted.

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