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Police restraint 'contributed to Sean Rigg's death'

VICTIM: Sean Rigg

THE LEVEL of force used by police to restrain a Brixton musician "more than minimally contributed" to his death, an inquest jury found.

Fit and healthy Sean Rigg collapsed and died on August 21, 2008, in a police cell at Brixton police station after officers used unsuitable techniques, Southwark Coroners Court heard today.

Rigg, who suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested by police after complaints from the public that he was acting strangely.

Recording a narrative verdict, the jury condemned the police for a series of blunders that contributed to the 40-year-old's death.

The jury found officers "failed to identify Sean Rigg was a vulnerable person at point of arrest" despite information about his medical history being readily available and accessible.

He was restrained in the prone position for eight minutes, a length of time that "more than minimally" contributed to his death, the jury found.

Instead of being taken to an A&E department or special unit for those detained under the mental health act, Rigg was taken to Brixton police station where he died from a heart attack.

Coroner Andrew Harris: "Sean Rigg's health continued to decline during the journey in the cage of a police van back to the police station.

"Sean Rigg's mental health was already, and continued to be, very poor. As Sean Rigg was brought into the cage at Brixton police station he was extremely unwell and was not fully conscious."

The jury found that while in custody "the police failed to uphold Sean Rigg's basic rights and omitted to deliver the appropriate care".

Coroner Harris added: "It was reasonable to expect the police to recognise that there was cause for concern regarding Sean's mental and physical health."

In a statement, his family said: “We have sat through seven long and painful seven weeks reliving the final days and hours of Sean’s precious life.

"This pain has been compounded by officers at best misleading the jury and at worst lying under oath. The evidence we have heard has left us in no doubt that Sean died as a result of the wilful neglect of those who were meant to care for him and keep him safe."

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST, who supports families whose loved ones have died in suspicious circumstances, said: “Sean Rigg was a vulnerable man in need of help and protection and yet he was failed by all those who should have been there to protect him.

“The inquest uncovered a litany of appalling failures by mental health services and the Metropolitan Police, outlined in the damning jury narrative."

She added: “It also raises serious concerns about policing culture and practice where a man so obviously unwell was restrained in the prone position for eight minutes, became unresponsive, and yet was taken to a police station rather than a hospital, and left to die on the floor.

“Time and again we’re told that ‘lessons will be learned’ and yet we see the same poor practice and system failures."

Cole expressed disappointment that no police officers had been sacked, prosecuted or faced misconduct action.

“A system that is not seen to deliver justice will continue to undermine public trust and confidence", she said.

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