London

Sean Rigg death: Police watchdog 'broken beyond repair'

Andrew Birks Image copyright Parish of Portslade and Mile Oak
Image caption Andrew Birks retrained as a priest during his five-year suspension from the Met

A Metropolitan Police officer cleared of misconduct charges after a man died in custody has said the police watchdog is "broken beyond repair".

Andrew Birks wants an investigation into why he faced disciplinary hearings more than a decade after musician Sean Rigg died at Brixton police station.

Mr Birks, 43, said a lengthy case brought by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had caused him "dark periods of stress and anxiety".

The IOPC said it regretted the delays.

Mr Rigg, 40, died from a cardiac arrest after being restrained by officers at the south London police station while Mr Birks was on duty as a PC.

He and four colleagues were accused of a string of failings over Mr Rigg's treatment, but a misconduct panel dismissed all allegations on Friday.

Image copyright The Rigg Family
Image caption Sean Rigg, a musician, died after being held in the prone position by officers for eight minutes

In a statement, Mr Birks said: "There have been no winners in this case, only people who have been deeply affected by the actions of the [IOPC] whose second 'investigation' took twice as long as the first... the IOPC is absolutely broken beyond repair."

He said the IOPC's "highly incompetent" investigations were "short of what is expected of a statutory public body".

He added the past five years had been "a living nightmare... there have been very dark periods in my life caused by the stress and anxiety of the investigation hanging over me for so long".

Mr Birks' suspension has been lifted and he is now preparing to leave the Met.

The IOPC refused to comment on Mr Birks' calls for its regional director Sarah Green and acting director for major investigations Steve Noonan to be suspended.

However, after the misconduct panel's decision on Friday, Ms Green said: "We recognise it has taken far too long to reach this point, and regret the part we have played in delays.

"As a result of learning from Sean Rigg's case, we undertook a critical review of the way in which we investigated deaths following police contact. We recognise timeliness is a priority."

Ms Green said the watchdog now completed nearly half of its investigations within six months.

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