8 September 2023

Fifteen years after the death of Sean Rigg, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has made an unprecedented unreserved apology for its failings and those of its predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

This is in connection with the police misconduct investigations into Sean Rigg’s death, including the long delay in bringing them to a conclusion; and for not giving Sean’s family prior notification of a settlement of a civil claim brought against the IOPC by three of the police officers.

One period of delay in the long history of this case was described in a judgment of the Hight Court in April 2018 as ‘extraordinary and indefensible’ with the Court noting that the IPCC had accepted that it had breached its statutory duty in conducting an efficient investigation. 

In a letter to Marcia Rigg dated 21 August 2023, published in full by the IOPC today together with a background statement which provides an agreed context to the apology, Tom Whiting, Acting Director General of the IOPC says as follows:

‘I am aware that Dame Anne Owers, on behalf of our predecessor, the IPCC, previously apologised to you and your family in May 2013 for shortcomings identified in the Casale review regarding the IPCC’s first investigation…and the length of time it took to get to that stage, acknowledging that those failings and delays added to the distress and grief of the Rigg family.  

I wish to apologise to you and your family not just for the delay in the original investigation but also for all of the IPCC’s delays thereafter including in completing the second investigation and the time it took to bring matters to a conclusion.  

Also, given recent events, I consider it appropriate to personally apologise to you and your family… for not giving proper consideration to informing you at an earlier stage of a civil claim brought against the IOPC by some of the officers investigated following the death of your brother… I am sorry that consideration was not given to informing you of the claim at a much earlier stage.  

I also apologise for the way you came to learn of the settlement of the claim, the fact compensation was paid and apologies provided to the officers. I am aware that we did not inform you following the settlement and that you instead learned of it through an article issued by the Police Federation, which we did not know about until after publication (published 15 May 2023). 

I understand that this caused you and your family anxiety, distress and upset in addition to that which you inevitably suffered in the wake of your brother’s death and investigations and proceedings that followed. For that I unreservedly apologise.’

In response to the IOPC’s apology, Marcia Rigg said:

Fifteen years since my brother Sean Rigg died at Brixton police station on the evening of 21st August 2008, the never-ending trauma and painful impact continues to haunt me, through no fault of my own or my family. 

The lengthy judicial process very rarely affords any proper accountability following deaths caused by excessive force and face down restraint by police officers. This only serves to ‘fuel’ already decades of injustices and more unnecessary deaths.

In my view and that of many families and the public generally, there continues to be zero confidence in the investigative and judicial process, no justice even with damming evidence and countless reviews, proving that the whole judicial system in the UK is fundamentally flawed; institutionally racist; corrupt and a national public scandal.

Following arduous campaigning by myself, numerous legal challenges by my brilliant legal team and INQUEST and re-investigations by the IPCC and IOPC, all the officers involved in Sean’s death walked away unpunished on 1st March 2019 following a gross misconduct panel chaired by Commander Julian Bennett.

On 15th May 2023, I became aware via a Police Federation news article that three officers involved in the restraint of my brother received compensation and an apology from the IOPC for the IPCC’s delays, which was almost 11 years by the time of the decision in March 2019.  It was extremely upsetting for me to read this, not least because the compensation was paid in secret.  

Last month, exactly 15 years after Sean’s death, Tom Whiting of the IOPC unreservedly apologised for not informing my family of the fact that compensation was paid to three of the officers; for the history of delay; and the failings of the first IPCC investigation.

The jury’s findings in August 2012 and the independent Casale review of 2013 laid bare those failings. I appreciate these apologies and trust that the IOPC will now consider informing families and complainants of any similar compensation to officers by the IOPC as a matter of course, as a courtesy and in the wider public interest.”

Sean Rigg, aged 40, died at Brixton police station on 21 August 2008. During a medical emergency in a mental health crisis and numerous 999 calls to the police to take Sean to a place of safety, a hospital, Sean was instead chased by police officers from Brixton Police Station through the streets of Balham, South London and restrained on the Weir Estate by PC’s Andrew Birks, Mark Harratt, Richard Glasson and Matthew Forward in a dangerous prone position for 7-8 minutes. 

After arresting Sean for the theft of his own passport, Sean was transferred to a police van, where he was placed in a dangerous position in a cramped caged area in the back of the van, and then rushed to Brixton police station, where he was kept in the back of the van in the station car park for about 10 minutes.

Sergeant Paul White failed to make a proper risk assessment on Sean’s condition and gave false evidence to the inquest that he had done so while Sean was in the van. When shown CCTV footage that revealed he had not gone to the van, White conceded he could not have visited the van when he said he had. White said he made a mistake and was completely shell-shocked when he saw the footage.

Sean was removed from the van in a collapsed state and within an hour of being arrested, Sean was dead, practically naked wearing only speedos and handcuffs in a cramped cage surrounded by multiple police officers. They claimed that he was sleeping and faking unconsciousness. An inquest in 2012 found that Sean died of a cardiac arrest following restraint in the prone position, which was deemed ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unsuitable’.


In May 2013, the IPCC published its independent review of its investigation into the death of Sean Rigg, conducted by Dr Silvia Casale with the support of James Lewis KC and Martin Corfe, carried out between November 2012 and April 2013. The unprecedented Casale Review was commissioned because the inquest revealed serious disparities between the evidence and findings of the inquest jury and the IPCC’s own investigation findings. The Casale Review identified a litany of failings, including:

• The IPCC investigation discovered photographic evidence of the restraint process taken on a witness’s mobile telephone. However, the IPCC was not aware of the embedded timings of the photographs and therefore did not expressly request this information from their external photographic expert, who failed to present a full account that included these timings.  In turn, none of the officers were asked to account for the evidence of those timings.

• The failure to identify Sean Rigg by means of his own passport indicated ‘poor police performance at an early point in police contact with Mr Rigg’.

• The IPCC failed to scrutinise the CCTV evidence and accepted the evidence of PC Harratt and Sergeant White that the latter had visited Sean Rigg in the back of the van, when the CCTV evidence showed that this was not the case. 

• The lack of reference to race throughout the IPCC’s investigation report was not a sign of non-discrimination, but rather an indication of malaise and/or lack of confidence about how to address racial issues appropriately, leading the Review to support INQUEST’s views on the need for robust investigations into concerns of race discrimination.

Eventually, after a second IPCC investigation, five officers (PC Andrew Birks, PC Richard Glasson, PC Matthew Forward, PC Mark Harratt and PS Paul White) faced gross misconduct allegations around failing to identify and treat Sean as a person with mental ill health, use of excessive restraint, and false evidence given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)* and at the inquest.

In March 2019 an MPS disciplinary panel dismissed all the misconduct charges against the officers. 

Over the past fifteen years Sean Rigg’s death and the subsequent family campaign have given rise to significant public interest, and informed changes in policing practice, and reviews of policing and mental health.

One lasting legacy that the family of Sean Rigg demand is for all senior police officers to disown the following statement made in the findings of the MPS disciplinary panel in March 2019:

“From the experience of the two police members of the Panel, restraint in the prone position for seven minutes would not in itself necessarily be regarded as being for an excessive time.”


Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “The justice system has completely failed Sean Rigg and his family.  From the outset there was a flawed investigation and a culture of obfuscation and denial from police officers responsible for the deadly restraint used against him.  That any of those officers are then secretly compensated for delays is abhorrent.  

Fifteen years on and with no one properly held to account, this case provides a stark reminder of how the mechanisms for holding police to account are not fit for purpose. All those involved, the IOPC, CPS, Police federation and the Met Police should be ashamed. 

Black men continue to die after police use of dangerous restraint and there remains a culture of impunity and failure to enact meaningful systemic change.  Police forces and the IOPC must consistently hold officers to account for the use of prolonged prone restraint well known to carry serious risks. Anything else is a licence to seriously injure or kill.”

Daniel Machover of Hickman and Rose solicitors, who represents Marcia Rigg said: “The IOPC must fully absorb the lessons from past failures in this and other investigations into the use of force.

The IOPC needs to go beyond this unprecedented and very welcome apology. It needs to unequivocally support Marcia Rigg’s call for the end of prolonged prone restraint.

Beyond that, the IOPC has a long road to travel to fulfil its important public function, especially as regards ensuring accountability for the unlawful use of force by police officers

We see a consistent failure in current cases to critically examine and thoroughly investigate police officers use of force, whether resulting in death or serious injury. Investigators are unquestioning even when the evidence of excessive use of force is staring them in the face and they consistently misapply their own low threshold test for whether to commence formal disciplinary processes and/or criminal investigations, feeding directly into a culture of absolute impunity.

The message now being sent to serving police officers by the IOPC seems to be ‘don’t worry, we’ve got your backs’. How that helps to promote the independence of the IOPC, ensure accountability and enhance public confidence in the police complaints system is a mystery to me.”



For further information and interview requests please contact Jess Pandian on [email protected]

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 and Rose Solicitors, Leslie Thomas KC and Tom Stoate of Garden Court Chambers, Jude Bunting KC of Doughty Street Chambers, and Alison Macdonald KC of Essex Court Chambers.

* In 2018, the Independent Police Complaints Commission became the Independent Office for Police Conduct.


2008-2012: Sean’s death and inquest

• 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 critical learning for the mental health care and police services involved, highlighting ongoing concerns. Full info here.

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.

2017: Victims Right to Review and Angiolini review

• The family used the Victims Right to Review, leading the CPS to reconsider the charges as above.
• In December 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed their decision not to charge officers involved in the death of Sean Rigg.
• Sean Rigg’s case and the years of campaigning by his family were central to sparking and informing the Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custodyby Dame ElishAngiolini, published in October 2017.

2018: Misconduct charges directed and ten year anniversary

• In April 2018 the IOPC announced that they had directed gross misconduct charges.
• Also in April, an unprecedented second attempt by PC Andrew Birks to challenge a decision to block his resignation was successful, after the High Court ordered the Met Commissioner to reconsider a decision made in July 2017 to continue Birks’ suspension, pending decisions on disciplinary action. This was the result of a second judicial review (heard in February), after his attempt at resignation was initially blocked in 2014.
• Prior to the 10 year anniversary of Sean’s death in August 2018, Marcia Rigg  wrote an INQUEST blog, 'Almost ten years fighting for justice', describing her experiences since.

2018: Misconduct hearing

• On 21 January 2019, the hearing opened with six sets of gross misconduct allegations against five officers; PC Andrew Birks, PC Richard Glasson, PC Matthew Forward, PC Mark Harratt and PS Paul White.
• On 1 February 2019, abuse of process arguments put forward by the officers were dismissed by the panel. All five officers argued that charges should not proceed on the grounds that the prejudicial impact caused by excessive delay in bringing these proceedings amounted to ‘abuse of process’.
• On 13 February 2019 another set of charges, relating to three officers lying about Sean’s behaviour in the back of the van, were dropped. There was found to be insufficient evidence available to the panel to prove the charge. There was no CCTV in the police van Sean was detained in, but due to pressure from Sean’s family, in 2015 it was announced that all Metropolitan police vans would be fitted with CCTV.
• On 1 March 2019, following a six week hearing, the police misconduct panel dismissed all gross misconduct charges against five current and former Metropolitan police officers.