Media Media releases Abuse of process decision announced at police misconduct hearing for officers involved in death of Sean Rigg 1 February 2019 Metropolitan Police Misconduct HearingHearing room, 14th Floor, Empress StateBuilding, Lillie Road, SW6Opened 21 January 2019 Listed for 6 weeksThose who wish to attend future hearings must register in advance here. A police misconduct panel has today issued its decision rejecting dismissal applications by all five officers who claimed that to go ahead with the process would amount to ‘abuse of process’.Five officers are accused of gross misconduct in relation to the restraint death of Sean Rigg in 2008. Since opening the misconduct process on the 21 January, legal teams for all five officers have argued charges should not proceed on grounds that the prejudicial impact caused by excessive delay in bringing these proceedings amounted to ‘abuse of process’. Following three days of deliberation, the Panel has found each officer “can have a fair hearing, notwithstanding the prejudice he has suffered.” In reaching its decision, the Panel stated, “Not only is it satisfied that all Officers can have a fair hearing, but it will take any “active measures” necessary to ensure they do.” Sean, aged 40, was suffering mental ill health at the time of his arrest and was restrained by Metropolitan Police Officers. He was arrested for theft of his own passport, prompting his transfer by police van to Brixton Police Station, where an inquest jury found he died on the 21 August 2018 in the external caged area of the station. The case will now proceed to evidence and determination of the misconduct offences. The five officers accused of gross misconduct in relation to his death and their behaviour since are: PC Andrew Birks, PC Richard Glasson, PC Matthew Forward, PC Mark Harratt Based and PS Paul White Based. The summary of gross misconduct allegations they face are: All five officers are accused of failing to identify and treat Sean as a person with mental health problems. Four officers (Birks, Glasson, Harratt and Forward) are accused of failing to ensure Sean received proper medical attention as soon as it became apparent that he was seriously ill. The officers (Glasson, Harratt and Forward) are accused of using a method of restraint and control which was not consistent with training or good practice and continuing to restrain in the face down prone position, after Sean had been brought under control for an excessive time, contrary to policy and training. PS White alone is accused of failing to conduct a risk assessment when informed that Sean outside the police station. Two officers, Glasson and Forward are accused of dishonesty when saying Mr Rigg was placed on his side on the grassed area at the Weir estate whilst waiting for the van to return. Three officers, Glasson, Harratt, Forward, are accused of giving an account of the actions, behaviours and physical condition of Sean which they knew to be false or did not believe to be true. Marcia Rigg, Sister of Sean Rigg, said: The panel needs to be as robust in making findings of gross misconduct as with these dismissal applications - the family expect findings that match the damning findings of the inquest jury. Sean's 2012 inquest ruled the police used a level of force that was ‘unsuitable’; used handcuffs in way that was 'unnecessary and inappropriate' and they failed to deliver appropriate care. These failings ‘more than minimally’ contributed to Sean’s death, the inquest jury concluded. This was a devastating verdict for the police that cried out for action against those responsible. Now, finally, the officers in this case will have to answer for their actions. Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: Bereaved families for years have suffered the torturous impact of justice delayed and denied. We welcome this resounding decision that police arguments around system failures cannot and should never usurp the overriding need for justice to be served. This is one important step towards re-building some confidence in a police misconduct system which many have criticised as unfit. The panel must now apply the same robust level of scrutiny in judging the actions of these officers which ten years ago resulted in the death of a physically fit but mentally unwell man. Daniel Machover of Hickman Rose Solicitors, who represent the family, said: It is welcome news that the police officers present at the time of Sean's death have failed in their attempt to avoid accounting for their actions. These five officers had tried to claim that the appalling ten year delay in investigating Sean's death meant they should not face a police gross misconduct hearing. That the panel rejected this argument is not only a great relief to Sean's friends and family, it is also an important step forward for justice. Now the panel’s real work begins. It is vitally important that the officers explain what they did in Brixton police station ten years ago and that the public can have faith that there is proper accountability when fatalities occur in police custody. ENDS NOTES TO EDITORSFor further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or email Members of the public and media who wish to attend future hearing days must register for each of the days they wish to attend in advance, at the very latest by 3pm the day before. The public gallery has limited capacity, so it is recommended that places are booked as soon as practicable. Register through the Metropolitan Police booking system. INQUEST has been working with the family of Sean Rigg since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Daniel Machover and Helen Stone of Hickman & Rose Solicitors, Leslie Thomas QC and Tom Stoate of Garden Court Chambers, Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers, and Alison Macdonald QC of Matrix Chambers. Read more about the wide ranging recommendations of the Independent Review into Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC (October 2017) in our press release. See page 12 of our briefing for details on misconduct processes. Brief background On 21 August 2008, Sean Rigg died of a cardiac arrest following 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 in November 2012 issued a highly critical Prevention of Future Deaths report (known at the time as Rule 43) which identified ongoing concerns and critical learning for the Metropolitan Police Service and mental health services involved. Full info here. In April 2018 the IOPC announced their decision to direct gross misconduct charges. Sean Rigg’s case has attracted significant public concern. Issues arising from his death have been pivotal in prompting and informing many national and international reviews of policing, mental health and race; including the first ever Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custodyby Dame Elish Angiolini, published in October 2017.