Jury decides unsuitable force contributed to death of Sean Rigg in police custody

"Unsuitable force" contributed to death in police custody

Sean Rigg

Sean Rigg's sister Marcia

First published in News by , Senior Reporter

An unsuitable level of force used by police to restrain a schizophrenic man was a major factor in his death an inquest jury has found.
Sean Rigg, 40, was arrested after attacking members of the public with karate-style moves, in Weir Road, Balham, on August 21, 2008.
He was bundled into the back of a police van and taken to Brixton Police Station, where he died shortly afterwards of a cardiac arrest.
Southwark Coroner’s Court heard Mr Rigg, a musician from Tooting, was suffering from a mental breakdown after not taking his medication.
The jury returned a narrative verdict, finding police officers used an unsuitable level of force when putting him in the prone position with his face to the ground.
Reading out the verdict this afternoon, coroner Dr Andrew Harris said: "The level of force used on Sean Rigg whilst he was restrained in the prone position at the Weir estate was unsuitable.
"The length of restraint in the prone position was therefore unnecessary. The majority view of the jury is that this more than minimally contributed to Sean’s death."
Mr Rigg was living in a hostel ran by Penrose Housing Association in Fairmount Road Brixton at the time he suffered a mental breakdown.
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM) were also found to have failed to carry out appropriate mental health assessments, which also contributed to his death.
Dr Harris said: "They were not as proactive as they could have been in effective communications with the family or the clinical team.
"SLAM had failed to ensure that their patient Sean Rigg had took his medication."
The behaviour of emergency call operators was also found to be unacceptable, with hostel workers struggling to get anyone to attend when Mr Rigg became violent.
Police officers were also criticised for standing Mr Rigg up when he was physically unfit, as well as leaving him in handcuffs.
As the verdict was read out members of the Justice for Sean Rigg campaign group shed their outer-clothes to reveal t-shirts with his face on.
Family members gave an emotional statement outside of the court, claiming they were happy with the verdict but would like to take matters further and pursue a juridical review.
Sister Marcia Rigg-Samuel, 43, of Tooting, said: "If police had not ignored 999 calls and took Sean to the hospital he would have been alive today.
"It was clear that Sean was having some kind of mental health crisis when the police were called for help. Nothing will bring him back, all those responsible will be held to account for Sean."
His mother, Marie Rigg, said: "It is time the Government did something about what is happening. It is time for action to be taken, it is not fair and we want justice. Not just for Sean but for others."
The family accused police officers of covering up the causes of his death, and said they will pursue prosecution and a re-investigation of the matter by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. They will also be seeking a juridical review, as a verdict of neglect and unlawful killing was not given as an option to the jury.

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