This Thursday (22 February) the High Court will consider an unprecedented second attempt by a police officer to avoid possible gross misconduct proceedings by overturning a decision to block his resignation.

PC Andrew Birks, now also a Reverend in the Church of England, was the senior officer involved in Sean Rigg’s arrest on 21 August 2008. In May 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) suspended Birks and then prevented him resigning, as otherwise he would not face possible gross misconduct proceedings. He lost a legal challenge to those decisions in September 2014. His second judicial review of those decisions, which the MPS have maintained from May 2014 to date, is being heard at the High Court on 22-23 February 2018.

The news comes less than a week after another officer involved in Sean Rigg’s arrest was also suspended by the MPS in order to prevent him from retiring, due to pending misconduct charges.

PC Birks hopes to overturn the MPS decisions preventing his resignation. He will argue that the delay by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and MPS in deciding whether to bring disciplinary charges against him outweighs any need to reach the end of that process to comply with the state’s obligations to bereaved families under the Human Rights Act 1998 (Article 2 ECHR). Such logic would reward police officers and punish bereaved families for the state’s failure to speedily hold the police to account for civilian deaths.

Lengthy delays in deciding on and pursuing disciplinary proceedings should not occur, as highlighted in the recent independent review on deaths in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC. The remedy for such delays is not to deny due process and the fullest possible accountability to Sean’s family, who have been fighting for justice since his death in August 2008.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: Police officers are public servants and cannot be above the law. Family and public confidence in an effective process for holding police to account will be undermined by this attempt to use delay as an excuse for impunity.”

Daniel Machover, solicitor for Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said: “Where the evidence supports it, the public interest in holding PC Birks and his colleagues to account could not be higher. As deaths following contact with the police continue and public perception of police integrity is low, the IOPC and the MPS must now work together to fast-track all the remaining decisions to ensure accountability. Sean Rigg’s family have waited long enough.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information, contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or here

  • INQUEST has been working with the family of Sean Rigg since his death. INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers and Daniel Machover a Partner at Hickman and Rose, will represent Sean’s older sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, at this week’s hearing.

  • Marcia Rigg recently wrote an INQUEST blog, 'Almost ten years fighting for justice', describing her experiences following Sean's death. 
  • Last week Police Sergeant Paul White, the custody sergeant on duty on the night Rigg died, was also suspended in order to block his retirement due to pending misconduct hearings.

  • In December 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service confirm decision not to charge officers involved in the death of Sean Rigg.

  • 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.