High Court rules that police officer cannot be ordained
A POLICE officer, PC Andrew Birks, has lost his legal battle to
leave the Metropolitan Police so that he can receive Holy
PC Birks was due to be made deacon last Sunday, but Scotland
Yard has refused to accept his resignation while he is under
investigation over the death of prisoner.
Last week, in the High Court, Mrs Justice Lang rejected his
request to be allowed to leave. "The public interest requires that
he should remain in the force to answer any charges of misconduct
which may be brought against him," she said.
PC Birks was the senior officer present at Brixton Police
Station, south London, when Sean Rigg was arrested for assault in
2008. Mr Rigg, a musician, suffered a heart attack, and an inquest
jury found that the police had used "unsuitable" force after his
Senior officers initially agreed to allow PC Birks to resign,
but changed their decision after the Independent Police Complaints
Commission (IPPC) said that this would allow him to avoid potential
In August, PC Birks applied for a judicial review of the
decision. The judge said: "If he is not ordained on that date, he
will not be able to take up the office of curate in the parish of
Portslade, Sussex, and will have to vacate the church accommodation
which he and his partner are already occupying."
The court heard that PC Birks, who completed a three-year
theology degree in June, decided to become a priest in 2001, but
joined the police after he was advised to get experience to equip
him for the demands of ministry.
The judge said that the case was "exceptional": the PC was
required, against his wishes, to remain a serving police officer
for an indeterminate period of time - which could be two or three
years if the IPCC found that there was a case to answer. During
that time, he would not be able to work as a police officer or in
any other position.
After the judgment, the Metropolitan Police said that it
recognised "the personal impact that this decision has had on PC
Birks. There has been much speculation about what took place on the
night that Mr Rigg died, but what is important now is that there is
a full and thorough investigation based on evidence to finally
establish the facts."
Mr Rigg's sister, Marcia Rigg-Samuel, said that his family hoped
that the decision would set a precedent for others "who face the
same dilemma as my family, following a death in custody". She also
called for a change in the law to make it mandatory for officers to
remain in post while misconduct investigations were ongoing.
Chichester diocese said that Mr Birks's ordination had been
postponed "indefinitely", but declined to comment further.