Five Metropolitan police officers involved in the arrest, restraint and detention of the musician Sean Rigg will not face charges, prosecutors have announced almost 10 years after his death in police custody.
Following a fresh review of evidence at the request of the Rigg family into what happened in south London and at Brixton police station in August 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute.
Few legal avenues now remain for the family, who called the CPS decision “shameful”.
Rigg, 40, had paranoid schizophrenia and was living in a hostel. Police were called after he allegedly smashed up a gazebo and made karate moves, which staff believed to be threatening.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) referred five officers to the CPS in March 2016 for a charging decision after the inquest into his death.
In September last year, however, the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence. “The family of Mr Rigg asked the CPS to review that decision under our victims’ right to review scheme,” a spokesperson said. “A full review of the evidence, including new material provided by the IPCC, was undertaken by a specialist CPS prosecutor who was not involved in the original decision.
“The review has now concluded and has upheld the original decision not to authorise charges in relation to the death of Mr Rigg, on the basis that the evidential test in the code for crown prosecutors is not met.”
Condemning the decision, Daniel Machover, who represents the Rigg family, said: “It is saddening that the CPS has failed to bring charges that would help to bring about change and accountability.
“The decision is deeply disappointing to Sean Rigg’s family and their supporters, given the findings of the inquest jury, that the police were guilty of using an unsuitable level of force on Sean. The jury also found that the officers’ use of the prone position for eight minutes … contributed to Sean’s death.
“Sean Rigg’s death is more evidence that police stations must never be used as places of safety for mental health detainees, for the simple reason that they are not safe.”
Restraint by police officers was deemed unnecessary and unsuitable by an inquest jury in 2012.
Marcia Rigg, Sean’s sister, said: “It is shameful and unhelpful that the CPS should yet again find there is insufficient evidence for a jury to convict police officers who are so evidently guilty.
“The CPS seem to apply an impossibly high evidential test when deciding whether to prosecute police officers, setting the bar so high that one cannot reach it. Almost 10 years on, our quest for justice has achieved no accountability whatsoever of the wrong committed against Sean by police officers.”
Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, an organisation that supports relatives at coroners courts, said: “For the family of Sean Rigg, the decision is bitter and painful. It stands at odds with the inquest evidence and findings.
“Excessive use of force against black people and those with mental ill health continues because of failing systems of investigation, oversight and accountability. Preventable police deaths go criminally unchallenged and police officers continue to be shielded from justice.”
In a separate decision, the high court has granted a fresh inquest into the death of Onese Power, who died in a high-speed police pursuit in 1997. The judgment follows a 20-year campaign by Ann Power, Onese’s wife, to find out what happened on the night he died.
An inquest in 1998 returned an open verdict. The judgment states: “It will be open to a new jury to return a narrative verdict which, it is to be hoped, would bring a measure of closure for the claimant, who for 20 years has fought tenaciously on behalf of her husband.”
Lawyers for Power criticised the police’s refusal to disclose witness statements, denying her the opportunity to question officers effectively on their accounts of the pursuit and collision.