This Thursday the High Court will consider an unprecedented second attempt by a police officer to avoid possible gross misconduct proceedings by overturning a decision to block his resignation.
PC Andrew Birks, now also a Reverend in the Church of England, was the senior officer involved in Sean Rigg’s arrest on 21 August 2008. In May 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) suspended Birks and then prevented him resigning, as otherwise he would not face possible gross misconduct proceedings. He lost a legal challenge to those decisions in September 2014. His second judicial review of those decisions, which the MPS have maintained from May 2014 to date, is being heard at the High Court on 22-23 February 2018.
The news comes less than a week after another officer involved in Sean Rigg’s arrest was also suspended by the MPS in order to prevent him from retiring, due to pending misconduct charges.
PC Birks hopes to overturn the MPS decisions preventing his resignation. He will argue that the delay by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and MPS in deciding whether to bring disciplinary charges against him outweighs any need to reach the end of that process to comply with the state’s obligations to bereaved families under the Human Rights Act 1998 (Article 2 ECHR). Such logic would reward police officers and punish bereaved families for the state’s failure to speedily hold the police to account for civilian deaths.
Lengthy delays in deciding on and pursuing disciplinary proceedings should not occur, as highlighted in the recent independent review on deaths in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC. The remedy for such delays is not to deny due process and the fullest possible accountability to Sean’s family, who have been fighting for justice since his death in August 2008.
Daniel Machover, solicitor for Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said:
“Where the evidence supports it, the public interest in holding PC Birks and his colleagues to account could not be higher. As deaths following contact with the police continue and public perception of police integrity is low, the IOPC and the MPS must now work together to fast-track all the remaining decisions to ensure accountability. Sean Rigg’s family have waited long enough.”
INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jude Bunting (Doughty Street Chambers) and Daniel Machover (Partner, Hickman and Rose) will represent Sean’s older sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, at this week’s hearing.