An investigation that cleared police officers involved in the death of Sean Rigg is not worth the paper it is written on, an independent review has concluded.
Sean Rigg, 40, died after being restrained and arrested in 2008 in Brixton, south London.
The initial IPCC report found no evidence of wrongdoing by police officers.
But following an inquest into Rigg’s death, the IPCC commissioned an investigation into their own work. The inquest jury verdict can be read here.
The report, conducted by Dr Silvia Casale, an international expert in the prevention of torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners, was carried out between November 2012 and April 2013.
Responding to the findings, Matilda MacAttram, of Black Mental Health UK, said:
The IPCC’s job is to investigate possible wrongdoing by the police. The fact that they have commissioned external experts to establish exactly what happened to Sean Rigg after he lost his life at Brixton police station raises questions over the need for their existence if they have to commission external experts in order to uncover the truth in this case.
If in order to do its job properly the IPCC needs independent experts, why should we pay for a watchdog? Currently 11% of all staff and 33% of investigators are former police officers. The government’s HASC report called for the commission to move to a 20% so that the number of former officers investigating the police is significantly reduced.
This independent report has shown what the Rigg family have asserted all along, that the commissioners at the IPCC who were supposed to investigate this death colluded with the officers who caused it.
This report marks a watershed as it is the first time in the history of the IPCC has commissioned an independent investigation into a case that it has been responsible for.
It is also significant in bringing to the nation’s attention the kind of treatment that is often meted out to people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities who come in contact with the police when in urgent need of mental healthcare.
The Riggs have been very clear about the fact that they want the CPS to look into this case with a view to putting those responsible for their brother’s death to face criminal proceedings.
The report is welcome and it has come at a very high price. There is no way we would have the information that we have now without the work of the family has done.
For BHM UK, this marks a watershed moment. The investigation has put the treatment of people from Afro-Caribbean communities who use the mental health service before the eyes of the nation. Now what we need to see is a commitment to bring about a change that ends the routine human rights abuses that this group face.
In March, two serving and one retired Metropolitan Service Police (MPS) officers were arrested in connection with the on-going investigation and evidence given at the inquest into Rigg’s death.
The last time an officer served a custodial sentence for a death in custody was in the case of David Oluwale, in 1969.
People from the UK’s African Caribbean communities continue to be over represented among those detained under the Mental Health Act even though black people do not suffer higher rates of mental illness than any other ethnic group. People detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60% of all deaths in state custody.
Last year, film collective Migrant Media released a documentary featuring the struggle of the Rigg family for justice. ‘Who Polices The Police?’ also investigates the close relationship between the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the police. The film can be viewed here.
Black Mental Health UK is a human rights campaigns group established to address the over representation of African Caribbean’s within secure psychiatric care and raise awareness to address the stigma associated with mental health.
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