John Stillwell/PA Wire

PC-turned priest facing disciplinary over musician's death wins ruling over resignation bid

Fri 13 Apr 2018
By Press Association

A police constable-turned Anglican priest facing gross misconduct charges over the death of a musician has won a High Court ruling against a refusal to let him resign.

Andrew Birks, who was ordained a Church of England priest last year, was one of five officers investigated after 40-year-old Sean Rigg collapsed and died at Brixton police station in August 2008.

Suspended from the Metropolitan Police force and wanting to become a full-time priest, Mr Birks handed in his resignation.


But it was blocked by an assistant commissioner in July last year on the grounds that resigning would allow him to avoid any potential disciplinary proceedings.

Overturning that decision on Friday, Mr Justice Garnham said it "cannot stand" because the assistant commissioner did not take into account the lengthy delay in deciding whether Mr Birks should face any charges.

However, Mr Birks will still have to wait to find out if he will be allowed to resign, as the judge ordered that the decision should be taken afresh in light of his ruling.

Hickman & Rose Solicitors/PA Wire
Sean Rigg who died in custody in 2008, as Andrew Birks, one of five officers that have been investigated over the death of Rigg has claimed that his prolonged suspension is unlawful.


Mr Rigg (pictured above), who had paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested in Balham and taken to the station in a police van driven by Mr Birks.

At an inquest in 2012 jurors found the primary cause of Mr Rigg's death was cardiac arrest and were critical of the way he was restrained by police.

Mr Birks was suspended with pay during an investigation by the police watchdog and Metropolitan Police bosses refused to let him leave the force - because by doing so he could avoid any potential disciplinary proceedings.

High Court heard the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), previously the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), initially concluded Mr Birks had no case to answer over Mr Rigg's death.

But the watchdog renewed its investigation following the inquest and his resignation, which had previously been accepted by senior officers, was blocked.

A previous High Court bid by Mr Birks to be allowed to resign, so he could take up a position as a curate in Portslade parish, Sussex, was also refused.

Mr Justice Garnham said the delay in deciding whether Mr Birks should face disciplinary charges was "extraordinary and indefensible" and has prevented him from fully pursuing his life as a priest.

He added: "The incident in question took place in 2008; by July 2017 no disciplinary charges had been laid against the claimant.

"In the meantime, he was compelled to remain a member of the police force.

"He has continued to be paid out of public funds. Even today, the case remains outstanding.

"The need to bring the matter promptly to a close is a matter of significant public interest and one which the decision letter leaves out of account."

The judge said the Metropolitan Police has now been directed by the IOPC to bring gross misconduct proceedings against Mr Birks.

The allegations are that he failed to identify Mr Rigg as a person with mental health problems and failed to ensure he was safe while under arrest and received proper medical attention.

He ordered that the proceedings should be stayed pending the fresh decision on Mr Birks' resignation.

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