Sean Rigg death: Met did not spot illness - IPCC

Sean Rigg Sean Rigg was said to have been restrained for eight minutes

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Officers failed to notice that a man who died in custody was suffering from a mental illness, the police watchdog has found.

Sean Rigg, 40, died at Brixton police station in south London in 2008.

An inquest found police used an "unsuitable" level of force before his death.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has now published its report, noting the failure to identify Mr Rigg's schizophrenia.

But it found the delay in responding to a related 999 call was not unusual.

Staff at Mr Rigg's care home, who had been concerned at his behaviour on the day he died, had made several calls to police but it was three hours before officers detained him.

Mr Rigg was eventually held after an unsubstantiated claim he had attacked passers-by in Balham.

The previously fit musician and karate expert then died of cardiac arrest, his inquest at Inner London South Coroner's Court heard.

Amerdeep Somal, who carried out the IPCC's report, said: "Sean Rigg's death is a symptom of a deeper problem - the linkage between mental illness and deaths in or following police custody.

"At the inquest, concerns were raised about the care Mr Rigg received from the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust.

"Nor did the police involved recognise or respond to his condition."

'Ludicrous findings'

Daniel Machover, the solicitor acting for Mr Rigg's brother Wayne, criticised the IPPC over the way it investigated the Met's handling of the case.

He said: "Now that the IPPC has published its February 2010 report, the public can see for itself that the IPCC failed to properly examine the most basic evidence in its possession in Sean Rigg's case, including police incident records, photographs of the restraint and CCTV footage, which meant that officers were never asked key questions until the inquest.

"This helps to account for the gulf between the IPCC's ludicrous findings and the jury's damning narrative verdict: so, while the IPCC gave the police a clean bill of health in 2010, two weeks ago the inquest jury was highly critical of every aspect of the police conduct, including the eight minutes restraint in the prone position, a fact totally missed by the IPCC."

Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "Every death in custody is very sad and we scrutinise every one to see if there is anything we can do to prevent it happening again.

"It is always important that those who come into contact with mental health sufferers in distressing situations are adequately trained to deal with that challenge.

"In most cases health professionals, not police officers, are those best equipped to do this.

"It's vitally important that the police work with relevant organisations to ensure people who suffer from mental ill-health are taken to the most appropriate place to access the services they need.

"It is important that police have the right training to recognise issues of mental health and Acpo is working with a range of other organisations to deal with this."

The Metropolitan Police is yet to comment on the IPCC's findings, although after the conclusion of the inquest on 1 August, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said "the way we handled the calls about Sean's behaviour let us down".

The South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust has already apologised for what happened.

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