Over the last few months, police officers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of Sean Rigg and Kingsley Burrell, while someone died after being detained under the Mental Health Act.
On 27 March 2013, three police officers were arrested in connection with their evidence at the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg who died on the floor of Brixton police station in August 2008. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Jury applauded for critical inquest verdict’.) A 50-year-old sergeant and 29-year-old constable were both arrested on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice; and a 48-year-old retired police officer was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has also initiated an investigation into the previous investigation of the death. This ‘external review’ of the investigation into Sean Rigg’s death, conducted by Dr Silvia Casale, aims to identify areas of improvement and is due to report in Spring 2013.
The Metropolitan police has established the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, chaired by Victor Adebowale, to see how, from the ‘last five years where someone with a mental health condition has either died or been seriously injured following contact with police’, the Met police responds to people with mental health conditions. It was due to report in February 2013 but has been delayed until this month.
On 22 March 2013, four West Midlands police constables were arrested in connection with the death of Kingsley Burrell. The officers were held on suspicion of gross negligence, manslaughter and misconduct in a public office after they had refused to be interviewed by the IPCC a month earlier. The arrests came almost two years after the death. The 29-year-old had called for police assistance when he and his child felt threatened by a group of men in Birmingham. He was arrested and held at the Oleaster Mental Health Unit, Birmingham, under the Mental Health Act and then transferred to the Mary Seacole unit. Days later, police officers responded to reports of a disturbance at the unit where Kingsley was restrained, taken to Queen Elizabeth hospital and later discharged to the Oleaster Mental Unit. Here, according to the IPCC, he ‘suffered a serious medical condition’ and was taken back to the Queen Elizabeth hospital where he died on 31 March 2011.
Kingsley Burrell’s family were finally allowed to hold his funeral in August 2013, almost eighteen months after his death, following protest marches that demanded answers from authorities about how he died.
In February 2013, the family of 23-year-old Olaseni Lewis were told the inquest into his death had been delayed for a second time as a result of ‘further material’ from the Health and Safety Executive which the Crown Prosecution Service has to consider first. Olaseni Lewis died in Mayday hospital, Croydon on 4 September 2010 after being restrained by up to eleven police officers at Bethlem Royal hospital. He had voluntarily sought help (with his family) at Croydon University hospital, was sent to the Maudsley hospital and then transferred to the Bethlem Royal hospital in Beckenham. Hours later his family were told an ‘incident’ had taken place and that he had been taken to the Mayday where he was on life support, where he died days later.
Jonathan Andel Malia
On 17 January 2013, 24-year-old Jonathan Andel Malia from Birmingham died in Lister hospital, Stevenage, Hertfordshire after being transferred from the nearby Cygnet hospital. On 4 January, he had been sectioned after voluntarily attending Queen Elizabeth, Birmingham after suffering from depression. Days later he was transferred to Meadowcroft Psychiatric Unit and then to the Chamberlain Ward at the Cygnet hospital which is a ‘locked ward for men. It provides a safe environment for service users experiencing an acute episode of mental illness that requires assessment and stabilisation’.