High Court rules Brixton custody death officer can’t resign before IPCC investigation concludes

A Met officer cannot resign before an investigation into the death of a mentally-ill musician at Brixton police station, the High Court ruled yesterday.

PC Andrew Birks had launched a judicial review into the Metropolitan Police (Met)’s refusal to accept his resignation.

Mrs Justice Lang, dismissing PC Birks’ claim that this refusal impinged on his human rights, ruled that his resignation was not in the public interest.

PC Birks, 39, would have avoided an Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) investigation into Sean Rigg’s death if he had been allowed to resign.

Senior police officers originally accepted PC Birks’ resignation in May 2014, but relented and suspended him after pressure from Mr Riggs’s family and the IPCC.

PC Birks, the most senior officer involved in Mr Rigg’s arrest, was to be ordained as a Church of England minister on 28 September 2014.

Mr Rigg, 40, suffered from schizophrenia and was arrested in Balham in August 2008 for attacking passers-by.

He died of cardiac arrest at Brixton police station after being restrained.

An inquest in August 2012 found the Met had used ‘unsuitable and unnecessary force’ after holding Mr Rigg down for eight minutes.

According to the BBC, Mrs Justice Lang ruled yesterday that ‘the public interest requires that he should remain in the force to answer any charges of misconduct which may be brought against him and the other officers involved’.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, Mr Rigg’s sister, said in a statement yesterday that she hoped the Judge’s decision would ‘set a precedent for other families who face the same dilemma as my family have following a death in custody, and avoid upset and anguish when an officer leaves the police service before an investigation into his or her conduct is complete’.

She said: “I insist that the IPCC vigorously and speedily move on with the investigation for all concerned and this Government immediately seek cross-party support for a change to the law making it mandatory for officers to remain in post where misconduct investigations are ongoing.”

Deborah Coles, the co-director of the charity Inquest, said: “The practice of police officers resigning to avoid potential disciplinary proceedings causes additional upset for the families of those who have died in police custody and further erodes public confidence in the police service.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, told the Police Federation in May 2014 that the government would be making sure officers ‘can’t escape scrutiny or censure’ by resigning or retiring early.

In a House of Commons statement in July, Mrs May announced that there would be a review of the whole police disciplinary system.

The review, to be chaired by Major General Clive Chapman, will ‘look for ways that the disciplinary system is clearer, more independent and public-focused’, Mrs May said.

A public consultation is due on the review’s findings later in the year.

Image courtesy of Channel 4, with thanks

Related Articles