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A POLICEMAN suspended over the death in custody of musician Sean Rigg must have his suspension re-examined, the High Court ruled today.
The Independent Office for Public Conduct (IOPC) also announced it had directed gross misconduct charges against five Metropolitan Police officers involved in the death of Mr Rigg.
The musician died at Brixton police station on August 21 2008 after being restrained.
The IOPC’s predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), initially cleared police of any wrongdoing in 2010, but a subsequent inquest found police actions had contributed to his death.
Andrew Birks, the senior officer involved in his arrest, resigned from the police in April 2014 to become a Church of England reverend, but that was blocked after Mr Rigg’s sister Marcia Rigg-Samuel filed a judicial review.
He has since been suspended on full pay, understood to be £44,000 a year, while also working two-and-a-half days a week as a curate in Portslade, Sussex.
The Met upheld his suspension last July, but Mr Justice Garnham ruled that that decision “cannot stand” because it did not take into account the length of delay in deciding whether Mr Birks should face any charge.
Blasting the “extraordinary and indefensible” delay in bringing misconduct proceedings, he ordered the Met to reconsider Mr Birks’s suspension.
Ms Rigg-Samuel welcomed the IOPC’s decision to direct gross misconduct charges for the officers involved in her brother’s death, saying “the only sensible decision in the public interest” was for Mr Birks to remain suspended so that he can face those charges.
But the Rigg family called on the IOPC to appeal the ruling, warning of potentially wider implications concerning the rights of families bereaved by state-related deaths to see alleged wrongdoing being addressed through disciplinary proceedings.
The family’s solicitor Daniel Machover said the judgment was “worrying, as it appears to downplay the significance of disciplinary proceedings in securing accountability following deaths in custody or at the hands of state agents”.
A Met spokeswoman said: “We will now fully examine the content and give fresh consideration to the decision as to whether or not to suspend the officer, as required by the court.”
IOPC Regional Director Sarah Green said she would be “making further representations” to the Met as to whether to suspend Mr Birks.
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