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Met Police constables conducted 'cover-up' over Sean Rigg death, misconduct hearing told

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A mentally ill man’s death in police custody more than a decade ago prompted a cover-up from officers, a misconduct hearing has heard.

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Sean Rigg, a 40-year-old musician who had schizophrenia, died after being detained in Brixton police station in 2008.

He was taken there following reports he was aiming karate kicks at passers-by while semi-clothed for no apparent reason.

The incident was not treated as a medical emergency despite Mr Rigg showing clear signs of mental illness.

Metropolitan Police constables Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward and Mark Harratt and custody Sergeant Paul White are facing misconduct charges in regards to the incident.

The Met Police constables involved are facing a misconduct hearing (PA Archive/PA Images)

Gerard Boyle QC, representing the Met, said multiple witnesses reported Mr Rigg acting as if in the grips of a mental crisis.

He stated if officers searched the police computer for the name on his passport they would have found his medical history.

However, according to Mr Boyle, Mr Riggs was unjustifiably arrested on suspicion of stealing the passport, cuffed and held face-down in the prone position for an “excessive” period.

He added: “It was obvious Mr Rigg must have been suffering from mental health problems and that he should’ve been treated by the officers as a medical emergency.

“It’s simply staggering that the officers did not consider the role of mental health issues.”

They should have been aware that if there is “any doubt” of such an issue that the detainee should have been taken to A&E and not the station.

Mr Boyle added their “egregious failure” to do anything for Mr Rigg became “more unforgivable” when they failed to help him when he was slumped on the floor in the station.  

The QC said White, the custody sergeant, expressed a “cavalier and lackadaisical” attitude to Rigg and even falsely assumed he was under the influence of drugs or “feigning” his condition.

Mr Boyle said: “In an attempt to cover up their behaviour, Glasson, Harratt, Forward and White have lied to investigating officers and/or a jury.”

Mr Rigg was arrested in Balham, south-west London, in August 2008 and was restrained in the prone position by three officers for more than seven minutes.

He later died after suffering a heart attack.

At the inquest into Mr Rigg’s death in 2012 jurors found that officers had used “unsuitable” force against him.

All five officers are accused of misconduct over Mr Rigg’s arrest and his treatment in custody.

Glasson, Forward, Harratt and White are further accused of giving dishonest accounts of what happened to either the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or the jury at Mr Rigg’s inquest.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against any of them, other than one count of perjury against Sgt White.

He was cleared of the charge in 2016 after being accused of lying to the inquest into Mr Rigg’s death.

All five officers deny the misconduct charges and the hearing continues on Tuesday.

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