Sean Rigg: Died after police used ‘unnecessary force’

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Having mental health problems and being Black can cost you your life.

This was the fatal cocktail that culminated in the death of Sean Rigg in 2008. Rigg who had been suffering from mental health problems for more than 20 years died in police custody after being suffocated by four ‘burly police officers’ who according to an inquet used ‘unsuitable and unnecessary force’.

The police were responding to a 999 call after Rigg who suffered from schizophrenia smashed up a gazebo and made karate moves which hostel staff where he was staying viewed as threatening. They called mental health services and the police who initially did not respond to several pleas for help.

Finally the police arrived and arrested Riggs but within an hour of that arrest a physically fit Rigg was found dead in police custody. Four officers had handcuffed Rigg, pinned him down upside down and sat on for eight minutes.

Black Mental Health UK director Matilda MacAttram writing in the Guardian said:

This case is significant because it speaks to the experience of many more black British people who come into contact with both police and mental health services. Black men continue to be over-represented among the preventable deaths that occur in police custody: they account for 20% of those who die in custody despite being only 3% of the population.

For the family of Sean Rigg, they have had to endure four years of not only losing a loved one, but also fighting a criminal justice system , which until Tuesday’s judgement, has failed them at every juncture. In a statement the family said:

This pain has been compounded by officers at best misleading the jury and at worst lying under oath. The evidence we have heard has left us in no doubt that Sean died as a result of the wilful neglect of those who were meant to care for him and keep him safe.

Given this damning evidence, they now await to see if any charges will be brought against the police officers who caused Riggs untimely death.

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