Sean Rigg Memorial


The 4th anniversary of the death of Sean Rigg whilst in police custody was held on Tuesday August 21st in Lambeth town hall. The packed Town Hall included family, friends and well wishers who support the family’s fight to have the individuals responsible for the death to be held to account.

The meeting was organised by the Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign in association with Black Mental Health UK. After speeches and a film titled ‘Who Polices the Police’, gatherers marched peacefully with the Rigg family to the Brixton Police Station where a memorial was also held. Sean Rigg’s sister Samantha Rigg placed a picture of him on tree that was decorated with candles.

A few days earlier, Samantha Rigg had also participated in the Kingsley Burrell march in Birmingham. The Burrell family are also campaigning for answers to Kingsley Burrell’s death, after he too died in police custody. No one has been charged, and his body is yet to be released. To date the coroner has not given a final verdict after three post-mortems and a 15 month long wait.

There have been well over 300 police deaths in custody since 1998 (and this figure is understated because anyone who dies following restraint without being formally arrested is excluded from death in custody figures), yet no officers have ever been convicted. With such a zero conviction rate, justice seems elusive not only for the grieving families and friends but also to the general public.

Sean Rigg was a mental health service user at the time of his death, and the 'callous' handling by the police and others charged with his care allowed his condition to deteriorate and eventually led to his death. There have been many similar tragedies involving the police and mental health service users, particularly Afro-Caribbean men dying preventable deaths in the hands of the police. Half of all deaths in police custody last year involved people with mental illness.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced that it would commission an independent eternal review into the death of Sean Rigg. This came after a report on the investigation of Sean Rigg’s death was regarded as insubstantial while the jury in contrast was far more critical in its verdict.

Sean Rigg’s family said:

There has never been any doubt in our minds that the IPCC’s inadequate report of February 2010 reflected an extremely poor and ineffective investigation into Sean’s death. For the IPCC to conclude in their findings that ‘the officers adhered to policy and good practice by monitoring Mr Rigg in the back of the van’ is absolutely absurd, flies in the face of the evidence and clearly contradicts the jury's narrative verdict.

Central flaws in the IPCC investigation included the failure to secure comprehensive first accounts from any of the relevant officers for over six months, despite the IPCC being in attendance at Brixton police station just hours after Sean Rigg’s death, and the failure to test officer accounts against photographic and CCTV evidence.

This unusual response by the IPCC is also the result of years of pressure from the Rigg family and other organisations that have pursued justice since the tragic event and may finally get the answers they deserve. However Helen Shaw, co-director of INQUEST said:

Families should not have to rely on their own efforts to make sure the full facts about such deaths are established and those responsible for deaths are held to account.

Alan Ssempebwa