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IPCC accepts failings in Sean Rigg case


FINDINGS OF a review into the police watchdog’s investigation into the death of Sean Rigg has underlined “how badly we were failed” by authorities, his family has said.

Rigg, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, died in police custody on August 21, 2008, after being arrested in Balham, south London, by officers from the Metropolitan Police earlier that day.

The report, published today (May 17) was ordered by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following the 2012 inquest into the 40-year-old musician’s death.

Serious inconsistencies emerged between the inquest jury’s findings and those of the IPCC from its own investigation into the death.

Now, following months of reexamination of evidence, the independent review, led by criminologist Dr Silvia Casale, has identified flaws in the IPCC’s approach to deaths following police contact and made recommendations for improvement.


At the time of his arrest, Rigg had been walking topless in the middle of the road, performing martial arts moves and attacking members of the public.

The IPCC's original report had concluded there was no evidence to contradict the officers' account that they had no reason to suspect Mr Rigg was mentally ill, and therefore deal with him accordingly.

But Dr Casale's report concluded: "The review considers that there was ample evidence at the time to suggest that this assertion was improbable."

Officers also failed to properly identify Rigg even though he had an out of date passport in his possession. They told IPCC investigators they had dismissed it as stolen.

Had officers carried out a routine search on his name, they would have found vital information relating to Rigg’s medical history.

When officers were later questioned by the IPCC about the oversight, Police Federation representatives present had behaved "inappropriately" in batting off questions, the review found.

Investigators have now asked the IPCC to reconsider whether there is potential for misconduct proceedings relating to the actions of the police officers involved in Rigg’s arrest and detention.

All of the recommendations have been accepted by the IPCC.


The U-turn is a victory for Rigg’s family who have spent years campaigning for justice, even combing through CCTV footage themselves in a quest for answers.

This should have been done by the IPCC and amounted to one of many basic mistakes made, the report found.

Sister Marcia Rigg said: “Almost five years after our brother’s unnecessary death, this report shows just how badly we were failed by the IPCC, not to mention the police. It is frightening to think that in the intervening years as we struggled for justice more families will have been failed in the same way."

PROTEST: Members of Sean Rigg's family

But she described the IPCC's acceptance as "encouraging", and added: "We recognise the importance of a body like the IPCC to hold the police to account but that is exactly what it must do. We hope that a complete reinvestigation of the issues identified by the review, with new consideration of police misconduct and criminal proceedings, will take place as quickly as possible.

“The police and the Police Federation need to sit up and take notice of this report and get their own houses in order rather than obstructing the IPCC in its statutory role.”

New approach

The IPCC revealed it will review evidence heard at the inquest in order to determine whether further action should be taken against the officers involved.

The family are keen for criminal charges to be brought and will be discussing the matter soon with Mary Cunneen, the commissioner now overseeing this case.

IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers said: "I am conscious that the shortcomings identified in this review, and the length of time it has taken to get to this stage, have added to the distress and grief of the Rigg family and I have apologised to them for this. I hope it will be of some comfort that they have helped shape our work in future and our approach to bereaved families like theirs.”

She added that the reviews recommendation would play an important part in the overall push to improve the IPCC’s handling of deaths following police contact.

Recent findings from Lord Victor Adebowale’s independent commission on mental health and policing would also be included.

"Some things have already changed since 2008,” Dame Owers continued.

“We now have critical incident management processes in place and we have clarified and strengthened the role that commissioners play in overseeing investigations.

"We are using both existing and new powers to ensure officers are interviewed expeditiously, and are examining our use of experts, including on mental health and restraint. But there is more to be done and we will use this review to build on progress so far.”

Public confidence

The findings of the review will be considered at the IPCC’s next meeting in June and a detailed action plan of how it will respond to its recommendations will be published.

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST which has been supporting the Rigg family since 2008, said: “The test will be in the prompt and robust implementation of its recommendations.

“Both the interests of bereaved people and public will be better served by an IPCC that can hold the police to account for criminality or misconduct and help develop good practice and safeguard lives in the future.”

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna also welcomed the report. “We will be watching developments closely to ensure that the review’s recommendations are properly implemented,” the Labour MP said.

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