6 December 2017

For the second time, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided not to charge officers of any criminal offences in relation to the death of Sean Rigg, following a review of the original decision. Sean, aged 40, was suffering mental ill health at the time of his arrest and was restrained by Metropolitan Police Officers. He died at Brixton police station on 21 August 2008.

Restraint by police officers was deemed ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unsuitable’ by an inquest jury in 2012, and the NHS trust tasked with Sean’s care were criticised. His case has been significant for civil rights and justice campaigners, and was a catalyst for the recent Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini.

Following a review by Dr Silvia Casale in 2013 which was highly critical of the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) original findings, the IPCC reopened their investigation into Sean’s death. Criminal charges were then considered by the CPS. However, in September 2016 they announced their original decision not to prosecute any officers, despite the length of time Sean was held in the prone position, the decision to leave him in the back of the police van and the failure to provide him with emergency medical attention.

Criminal charges were considered again following a Victim’s Right to Review claim brought by the family. The CPS considered five officers involved in Sean’s death for offences of unlawful act manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in a public office, perverting the course of justice, perjury and an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act. They today confirmed their conclusion that there is “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” for any of these charges.

Officers are being considered for misconduct proceedings through the police, which can be recommended by the IPCC.

Marcia Rigg, Sean’s sister, said on behalf of the Rigg family:
“It is shameful and unhelpful that the CPS should yet again find there is insufficient evidence for a jury to convict police officers who are so evidently guilty. 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. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken to prosecuting members of the public, whom the police are meant to serve.

Almost 10 years on, our quest for justice has achieved no accountability whatsoever of the wrong committed against Sean by police officers. The Rigg family are naturally disappointed and Sean is forever missed by us and the community.  Any hope has been crushed, unnecessarily. Lessons must be learnt, but without accountability lessons will never be achieved.” The full family statement is available here.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“For the family of Sean Rigg, the decision is bitter and painful. It stands at odds with the inquest evidence and findings. 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. Until this changes families will continue to see these decisions as further evidence that police related deaths are tolerated and officers guaranteed impunity.”  


For further information, please contact Lucy McKay here

INQUEST has been working with the family of Sean Rigg since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Daniel Machover of Hickman and Rose Solicitors. Submissions for the Victim’s Right to Review claim were made by Macdonald QC and Tom Stoate. Tom Stoate and Leslie Thomas QC represented the Rigg family at the 2012 inquest.

Since 1990 there have been 1,636 deaths in police custody or following police contact in England and Wales. There have been no murder or manslaughter convictions of any kind, and one conviction for misconduct in public office.


2008-2012: Sean’s death and inquest

  • On 21 August 2008, Sean Rigg died of a cardiac arrest following 8 minutes of restraint in the prone position, which was deemed ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unsuitable’ by an inquest jury in in 2012. Sean had been a patient of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM), who was also criticised. Full inquest conclusions details (August 2012) here. Full family response here.
  • The Coroner then (in November 2012) sent a highly critical Prevention of Future Deaths report (known at the time as Rule 43) which identified critical learning for the mental health care and police services involved, highlighting ongoing concerns. Full info here.
  • The five officers involved and considered for charges were: PS White, PC Forward, PC Glasson, PC Birks and PC Harratt.

2012-2013: The ‘Casale Review’, the reopening of IPCC investigations

  • Following the inquest the IPCC commissioned an independent external review of its investigation into Sean’s death. The review, known as the Casale Review, was published in May 2013 and is available here. It was highly critical of the original investigation, and led to an action plan for change and improvements by the IPCC. INQUEST and the family welcomed the report here.
  • Following this, in December 2013 the IPCC decided to reopen their investigation into Sean’s death. Details here.


2016: First CPS decisions

  • In 2016, Sergeant Paul White was on trial for perjury, with CCTV evidence in court suggesting that White had detailed a false version of events on the night that Sean died. On 8 November 2016, the jury found White ‘not guilty’ of perjury. Detailed here.
  • On 15 November 2016, the CPS announced they would not bring further criminal charges against any of the officers involved, finding there was insufficient evidence. Detailed here.