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Wiltshire Police Federation

A decade long investigation is 'totally unacceptable'

1 March 2019

Polfed Web

The Police Federation of England and Wales has been highly critical of the time taken to conclude an investigation into the conduct of five police officers following the death of a man in 2008, branding it ‘totally unacceptable’.

This morning, in the culmination of a process which has lasted more than 10 years, all the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing with a Metropolitan Police misconduct panel finding “none of the allegations [are] proved”.

PCs Andrew Birks, Richard Glasson, Matthew Forward, Mark Harratt and Sergeant Paul White had all been accused of breaching standards of professional behaviour after the death of Sean Rigg in August 2008.

Phill Matthews, national Conduct and Performance Lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, welcomed the decision of the panel: “It must be a huge relief for the five officers, their families and their colleagues that this process has finally come to an end.

“Clearly it is right that the incident was investigated and scrutinised but it has taken more than 10 years - which is totally unacceptable. All parties have had to endure this unnecessarily protracted process and it has consumed the lives of all involved.

“No police officer goes to work wanting to be involved in an incident like this and we must remember that the family of Mr Rigg have also had to endure a decade of heartache, and my thoughts are with them also.”

Forty year old Mr Rigg, who had schizophrenia, suffered a cardiac arrest and died at Brixton police station after he was arrested and restrained.

The former Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), was criticised over mistakes it made in its initial investigation but in March 2016, it passed evidence to prosecutors against five police officers.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced later that year there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction”.

One of the officers did face a trial for perjury but was found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court in November 2016.

The CPS reviewed their decision not to prosecute the officers following a request by Mr Rigg’s family but again upheld its decision the following year.

Last year the IOPC directed the Metropolitan Police to begin gross misconduct hearings against the five officers over their actions, as well as allegations they misled the inquest.

Mr Matthews continued: “The IOPC has serious questions to answer about their handling of this case; why it has taken 10 years to finalise and what was the justification for putting all involved through a decade’s worth of stress and worry.

“As well as the catastrophic human cost, this process highlights the need for statutory time limits for these investigations to be introduced and I have written to the Home Secretary asking for a rationale why these matters are allowed to drag on indefinitely with no time limit considering the seriously detrimental effect it has on all those involved.

“We need legal protection for our members to ensure this situation can never happen again,” he concluded.