Police not to face charges over death of Sean Rigg

Prosecutors have decided for a second time against charging officers involved in the 2008 death of Sean Rigg whilst in police custody. The 4o year old was schizophrenic and suffering from an episode at the time of his arrest. Rigg suffered a cardiac arrest following an application of force by police officers that was seen as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unsuitable’ by a 2012 inquest jury.

As well as being held in prone position, Rigg was left alone in the back of the police van and not provided with emergency medical attention. Twenty four people died in police custody in 2008 and eight were BAME – see here.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission reopened its investigation into Rigg’s death following a deeply critical 2013 review by Dr Silvia Casale. At which point, the CPS began to consider criminal charges. The IPCC itself is still talking to the Metropolitan police about whether the officers should face disciplinary hearings in relation to Rigg’s death.

Despite this, in September 2016 it was announced that the previous decision not to prosecute any officers would be upheld. Offences considered in a review by the CPS were: unlawful act manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice, perjury and an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act. According to the CPS, the evidential threshold for crown prosecutors to charge the five officers involved had not been met.

Sean Rigg’s sister, Marcia Rigg stated that the CPS ‘seem to apply an impossibly high evidential test when deciding whether to prosecute police officers, setting the bar so high that one cannot reach it’. She went on to say: ‘This is in stark contrast to the approach taken to prosecuting members of the public, whom the police are meant to serve.’

Deborah Coles, director of charity INQUEST which supports families of those killed in police custody, also condemned the verdict: ‘Excessive use of force against black people and those with mental ill health continues because of failing systems of investigation, oversight and accountability. Preventable police deaths go criminally unchallenged and police officers continue to be shielded from justice.’

Marcia Rigg added: ‘I don’t think it should end here.’

This article was first published on December 14, 2017

Author: Sarah Foss

Sarah is a journalist and Justice Gap reporter. She has a longstanding interest in migration, detention and human rights activism. Sarah is former Anti-Racism Officer of the London School of Economics student union

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