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Sean Rigg family call for suspension of officers under IPCC investigation

20 June 2014

Speaking on behalf of the Rigg family, Marcia Rigg-Samuel today welcomed the news that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has served notices of investigation on five officers involved in the arrest, restraint and detention of Sean Rigg on 21 August 2008, and that arrangements are being made to interview them under criminal and misconduct caution.

Finally, after many months of waiting, it now appears that the long awaited IPCC reinvestigation into the death of Sean Rigg at Brixton Police Station is properly under way.  The IPCC must put in sufficient resources to conclude the reinvestigation as soon as possible, with recommendations as to any criminal charges and/or disciplinary action to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service and Metropolitan Police Service in the shortest possible time. 

However, the Rigg family is outraged that, almost two years after the damning jury verdict of 1 August 2012, four of the five police officers remain on duty (even if at least one of them may be on ‘restricted’ duties). The family’s solicitors, Hickman and Rose, yesterday (19 June) wrote to the Commissioner to urge him to immediately suspend from duty Sergeant White and PCs Harratt, Glasson and Forward, joining PC Birks who was suspended on 29 May 2014.

Given the very serious criticisms of the police conduct by the Jury after its careful consideration of all the evidence at the seven week Inquest, and the fact that the allegations they face could not be much more serious, it is an affront to the Rigg family and a matter of wider public concern that such officers remain at their desks or in contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation.  It is not a question of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation but recognising that confidence in the police service, the IPCC and the complaints system is seriously undermined when officers facing serious allegations remain actively working for the police service. 

This concern is significantly heightened by the fact that officers who are not suspended can leave the police service without let or hindrance, despite Home Secretary Theresa May’s repeated promises to tackle this issue through law reform.

New statistics disclosed to Hickman and Rose by the IPCC just this week reveal the extent of this problem.

Many officers facing the most serious complaints have been able to leave their police employment during the course of IPCC investigations, making it impossible for them to face disciplinary action, where recommended by the IPCC. 

In the four year period up to the end of March 2013, 38 police officers across the country retired or resigned during the course of disciplinary investigations.  There must be a change to the law that tackles this problem and stops the further erosion of public confidence in the police complaints system.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel said:

"Our family are alarmed at the statistics where officers have retired or resigned pending disciplinary investigations, just as PC Birks' attempted to do just last month in our case. It is important that this escape hatch is closed where there are serious investigations against officers; for the time being all such officers must be suspended in order to avoid allowing them the opportunity of preventing the search for the truth and potential misconduct proceedings.   We insist the Commissioner suspends the other four officers immediately."

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“The system for investigating police complaints is not fit for purpose. It should not be possible for officers to resign or retire before an investigation involving them is completed, allowing them to evade accountability for wrongdoing and frustrate the justice process.”

Longer term, the police and the IPCC must act decisively to restore confidence in the police complaints system. Pending a change in the law, it must be the case that more officers are suspended from duty than they are at present. Clearly, while so many police officers are able to retire or resign during the course of investigations into the most serious cases, the public interest in suspending officers during the course of investigations becomes heightened. This is entirely legitimate under current regulations, which state that “having regard to the nature of the allegation and any other relevant considerations, the public interest requires that [the officer] should be…suspended.”

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