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Police officers cleared of misconduct over death of Sean Rigg

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Issue 2643
Marching for justice over deaths in custody
Marching for justice over deaths in custody (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Five Metropolitan Police officers have been cleared of misconduct over the arrest and detention of Sean Rigg who died in custody in 2008.

Police Constables Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward, Mark Harratt and Sergeant Paul White all faced disciplinary proceedings. Chair of the hearing panel Commander Julian Bennett said, “The decision of the panel is that none of the allegations are proved.”

Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, said, “I do not accept this decision. I do not accept this as an honest judgement of the evidence before the panel. I had little faith in these proceedings, but I always held hope they in the end they would do the right thing, based on such clear facts and evidence.

“My question remains, if the police acted as they were required, why is my brother dead? Nothing will tell me that this is justice.”

The Metropolitan Police Federation celebrated the result and The Police Federation called for a year time limit for disciplinary proceedings.

Bennett dismissed allegations that any of the officers instigated a cover-up after Sean Rigg’s death, despite accepting they had at times given incorrect statements.

He ruled these were “not deliberate lies” and attributed them to the passage of time and false memories being created.

Bennett also ruled that the officers did not restrain Sean Rigg inappropriately, did not fail to recognise he was suffering with mental health problems and did not fail to ensure he received adequate medical care when it became clear he was seriously ill.

However, Sergeant White’s suggestion that Rigg was “feigning unconsciousness” was “unfortunate to put it mildly”, Bennett said, and a comment about officers being “in the shit” should be “deprecated”.


Marcia Rigg, said the result provided police with a “licence to kill”, as she vowed to continue to fight for justice.

Holding a copy of the inquest report that found the officers had used “unsuitable” force and that the way he was restrained contributed to his death.

Following “the mockery of justice”, she vowed to continue her fight. “It may be the end of the legal proceedings but it’s not the end as far as me and my family are concerned. The truth will out.”

Sean Rigg

Sean Rigg

Her lawyer, Daniel Machover, said the impact of the dismissals will be “profound and entirely negative”.

“Today will only serve to strengthen the police’s sense of impunity when failing to treat mentaly ill people who are obviously in crisis.”

He added that the panel’s conclusion that holding Sean Rigg in the prone position for seven minutes was not excessive is “chilling and dangerous”.

Deborah Coles, director of charity INQUEST, said,A man died. People continue to die. A system which routinely fails to hold the police to account against mandatory policing standards is an unsafe, unfit system which fails us all.

“This shameful outcome points to the impunity of the police, and a process which frustrates the prevention of abuse of power and ill treatment. The delays in the process were the result of failings of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and of the police to cooperate with the investigation.

“This family’s ten year battle has been marked by a system corrupt in its protracted inadequacy. The Rigg family are the only people who come out of this process with any credibility. Their tireless efforts have led to significant changes and created greater visibility of deaths in custody and mental ill health.”

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