Five Met officers charged with gross misconduct over death of musician while in custody
Police officers involved in the detention of Sean Rigg lied about their actions as part of a cover-up after he died in custody, a police misconduct hearing has head.
Five Metropolitan police officers face charges of gross misconduct over the death of Rigg, a 40-year-old musician, who died after being restrained in 2008.
Rigg was undergoing a mental health crisis when police were called and was behaving erratically, aiming karate kicks at passersby. But he was arrested him on the grounds he had stolen a passport, which turned out to be his, the hearing heard.
The five officers who face the sack if found guilty are Sgt Paul White, PC Mark Harratt, PC Richard Glasson, PC Matthew Forward
Opening the case for the Met police, Gerard Boyle QC accused the officers of gross errors and four of them of lying to an inquest jury and investigators to hide the truth. Officers are also accused of holding Rigg in a prone position for seven minutes, an excessive period of time.
Boyle said: “In an attempt to cover up their behaviour, Glasson, Harratt, Forward and White have lied to investigating officers and/or a jury.”
Boyle said when the officers first came across Rigg they failed to spot obvious signs he was having a mental health crisis and should have taken him to hospital and not into police custody. “It was obvious Mr Rigg must have been suffering from mental health problems and that he should’ve been treated by the officers as a medical emergency.
“It’s simply staggering that the officers did not consider the role of mental health issues.”
Instead Rigg was taken in a police van to Brixton police station, south London, in what Boyle said was an “egregious failure” which was “more unforgivable” when later he fell on the station floor and those around did not help him.
White, who was the custody sergeant, was accused by Boyle of a “cavalier and lackadaisical” attitude having wrongly believed that Rigg, who was by now seriously ill, was feigning his condition or that it was caused by drugs.
The start of the disciplinary tribunal was delayed for a fortnight after the five officers tried to have the hearing scrapped, claiming they could not get a fair hearing because a decade had passed since the death.
The panel, chaired by the Met commander Julian Bennett, rejected their pleas on Friday but also castigated the police watchdog for its failings which caused long delays in the case.
The first investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission exonerated the officers. But an inquest jury in 2012 found that police actions had contributed to Rigg’s death, leading to the IPCC reviewing its first investigation, scrapping its findings and launching a reinvestigation, which led to the discipline charges.
The IPCC was abolished and replaced in January 2018 by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which directed the Met to bring the discipline charges. Theresa May, while home secretary, took a personal interest in the case, meeting privately with Sean’s sister Marcia, who has led the family’s campaign for justice.
The hearing continues.