30th May 2014

The family of Sean Rigg today welcomed the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s decision to refuse the resignation of PC Andrew Birks, reversing his earlier decision to accept it. 

Today’s decision was taken in response to legal action by Marcia Rigg-Samuel, the oldest sister of Sean, and representations from the IPCC. PC Andrew Birks was the most senior police officer involved in the restraint and detention of Sean on 21 August 2008, when he died in the caged holding area at the back of Brixton Police station.

The Rigg family this week discovered that PC Birks sought to resign from the MPS on 1 April 2014, even while his lawyers were agreeing to a Court Order to enable the IPCC to re-investigate him and other officers for possible disciplinary offences following the damning verdict of an inquest jury on 1 August 2012. No one at the MPS thought to tell the IPCC or the Rigg family about the resignation letter received from PC Birks. Instead, the Commissioner accepted the resignation on 12 April and if that had not been reversed today, PC Birks’ last day as an MPS officer would have been Saturday, 31 May 2014.

After Ms Rigg-Samuel sent a pre-action letter on 28 May and issued a judicial review claim at Court on 29 May (and the IPCC sent representations to the police on 29 May), the Commissioner last night suspended PC Birks. This morning, the Commissioner decided to reverse his decision of 12 April and refuse to accept the resignation of PC Birks after all, so that he can be the subject of the IPCC's disciplinary re-investigation.

The Rigg family call on the Commissioner to suspend the other key officers, Sergeant White and PCs Harratt, Glasson and Forward, because the IPCC's recent severity assessment indicates that all four may face charges of gross misconduct. That is a new recent development; it is also relevant that the CPS is currently (as of mid-April 2014) considering whether there is sufficient evidence to charge Sgt White and/or PC Harratt with perverting the course of justice and/or perjury in connection with evidence provided to the IPCC in 2009 and to the inquest in 2012.

The Rigg family also call on the Home Secretary to legislate to make it clear that as a general rule officers under disciplinary investigation are unable to retire or resign pending the outcome of investigations or proceedings and/or that there are clear sanctions where this does occur.

Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg said:

“The Rigg family is relieved that the Commissioner has seen sense to suspend PC Birks and reverse his resignation, so that he can face disciplinary investigations, and possible gross misconduct charges depending on what is found. 

“The Commissioner should now take the opportunity to suspend all the other key officers including the custody sergeant to ensure all comply with the independent disciplinary investigation by the IPCC.

“Our family now calls on the government to change the law so that other families do not have to threaten court action to stop officers resigning to avoid being held to account.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“The government must act urgently to ensure the police are not above the law.  Public confidence in the police complaints system can only be restored if changes are made so that police officers are unable to evade accountability for wrongdoing. 

“It should not be dependent on the tenacity of a bereaved family and their legal team to ensure that the police are properly held to account for deaths in their custody and are not able to frustrate the justice process in this way.”

INQUEST has been working with the family of Sean Rigg since his death in August 2008. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Leslie Thomas and Thomas Stoate of Garden Court Chambers and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers and Daniel Machover and Helen Stone of Hickman and Rose Solicitors.


Notes to editors:

  1. Full background to the Sean Rigg case is available here