A POLICEMAN suspended over the death of a man eight years ago has been ordained to the Church of England.

Sean Rigg died after being restrained by Metropolitan Police officers in August 2008.

Andrew Birks - the most senior officer involved in his death - has now been ordained as a deacon at St Nicholas Church in Portslade.

PC Birks is still suspended on full pay by the Met Police awaiting the outcome of a further inquiry into his role in Mr Rigg's death - at a cost of £44,000 a year to the taxpayer.

Mr Rigg, a musician who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was held down in a prone position for eight minutes whilst being detained by five officers.

An inquest jury found police actions had contributed to his death.

PC Birks had wanted to resign from the force and become a priest - but has been banned until a formal decision on whether he should face any disciplinary action has been reached.

The Diocese of Chichester confirmed he has now been ordained as a deacon instead - but continues to be paid by taxpayers whilst suspended from his post by the Met.

Speaking exclusively to The Argus about his ordination Fr Birks said: "This situation doesn't serve anybody, not the family, the police, the general public or tax payers."

He added: "It has already been three years since the reinvestigation opened.The effects of this have been huge.

"I don't want to work for the Met, I want to fulfil my vocation.

"I have now been able to fulfil at least part of my vocation.

"This is not just about me, there are other people's lives in the balance. Police officers are not above the law, but we should not be beneath it either.

"No civilian would be left with an allegation hanging over them for three and a half years.

"I still can't leave the police. I am still complying with their investigation.

"I couldn't take up the position originally because I was still employed by the Met and that hasn't changed, I am still going to be employed by the Met with no end in sight whether I'm going to face any action.

"The IPCC haven't disclosed anything and it could take another year or two years."

The first inquiry into Mr Rigg’s death by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in 2010 cleared police of any wrongdoing.

But this was effectively overturned by an inquest jury in 2012, which concluded that police used unsuitable and unnecessary force. Officers were blamed for failing to care for Mr Rigg who collapsed after being pinned down for eight minutes.

One Portslade parishoner told The Argus that Fr Birks' ordination had been met by mixed responses in the community.

"A few people are not happy," he said.

"I for one am considering going elsewhere."


SEAN RIGG was a 40-year-old musician who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

On August 21, 2008, police had received a number of 999 calls concerned about Mr Rigg, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

Four officers apprehended him. He was handcuffed and restrained in a prone position as officers leant on him for eight minutes.

Arrested for assaulting a police officer, public disorder and theft of a passport – which was actually his own – he was then placed face down with his legs bent behind him in the caged rear section of a police van and taken to nearby Brixton police station.

During the journey his mental and physical health deteriorated and he was not fully conscious when eventually taken out of the van.

This followed a delay of 10 minutes during which he was left handcuffed in a “rear stack” position, unattended and unmonitored while the van was outside the station in the parking area.

He was placed on the floor “handcuffed and unresponsive”, an inquest found.

Twenty five minutes later, Dr Nandasena Amarasekera, the force medical examiner, was called and found his heart had stopped. CPR was attempted but he was officially pronounced dead after arriving at King’s College Hospital, Southwark.

That was the start of a long battle for justice for his family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission spent 18 months investigating, then concluded police acted “reasonably and proportionately”.

But when Mr Rigg’s death came to be scrutinised by an inquest jury in 2012, it concluded officers used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” and the failings of the police contributed to his death.

However, since then the CPS has decided not to charge any of the officers with any criminal offence – althought their actions continued to be investigated by a new IPCC investigation. In April 2014, the Met agreed to allow PC Birks to retire but there followed reversed the decision on the eve of a legal challenge by Mr Rigg’s family. If PC Birks left the force he would no longer be subject to disciplinary proceedings and could not be sacked. Mr Rigg’s family wanted the officers present when he died to remain employed by the force because they wanted to see justice for him.

In May 2014, the Met Police decided to reverse the decision to allow PC Birks to resign and placed him on suspension instead. The officer sought a judicial review but in September 2014, the High Court upheld the decision.

At the time, Mr Rigg’s family welcomed the decision. Older sister Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said: “After six long unnecessary years, a little bit of justice goes far but why should a family have to fight so hard for it? I insist that the IPCC vigorously and speedily move on with the investigation for all concerned.”

More than two years further down the line everyone involved is still in limbo. In September, the Met said its professional standards department had seen the IPCC’s latest report and was considering it in deciding whether any misconduct matters should be considered.

But the Met said the “frustrating” situation had not changed in months and there was still no end in sight, adding they had “fully co-operated at every stage of the process”.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: “The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) knows the Rigg family - and the officers involved - remain frustrated at the length of the process to fully establish the circumstances surrounding Mr Rigg’s death and the MPS shares this frustration. The delays have been beyond the MPS’s control and have fully co-operated at every stage of the process.

“There has been much speculation about what took place on the night that Mr Rigg died and it remains a priority that the ongoing process is thorough and based on all the available evidence to fully establish the facts.”