Olaseni Lewis, known as Seni to his family and friends, died on the 4th of September 2010 after being restrained by up to 11 policemen whilst he was seeking help as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, Croydon.
He had been admitted early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August 2010 and had been at the hospital for only a few hours before this incident occurred.
This campaign has been established by his family to find the truth surrounding Seni’s death.
Latest News: Seni’s Law enacted into British Law, November 2018
Today the Mental Health (Use of Force) Bill has received Royal Assent in Parliament, eight years after the death of Seni Lewis for whom it is intended as a lasting legacy. Known as Seni’s Law, the Bill will increase protections and oversight on use of force in mental health settings.
Steve Reed MP has worked closely with the family of Seni Lewis, who are constituents of Croydon North. He worked on this Bill with the family’s lawyer Raju Bhatt, INQUEST, and a coalition of NGOs including Agenda , Article 39, Mind, Rethink and YoungMinds.
Throughout its passage in Parliament and the Lords the Bill has received cross party support. It also led the Minister Jackie Doyle Price to make commitments to consider the issue of the lack of independent investigations into deaths in mental health settings.
In 2017 an inquest jury unanimously condemned the actions of police and healthcare staff who watched on as Seni was restrained by 11 police officers. The inquest found the force used was excessive, disproportionate, and contributed to Seni’s death. His family have welcomed the Bill as an opportunity to prevent further deaths.
Statement from Seni’s family in response to inquest conclusion, May 2017
“When Seni became ill, we turned to the state in our desperation: we took him to hospital which we thought was the best place for him. We shall always bear the cross of knowing that, instead of the help and care he needed, Seni met with his death.
Now, after almost seven years of struggle to get here, the last three months have allowed us to hear for ourselves about what happened to Seni. We have heard about the failures at multiple levels amongst the management and staff at Bethlem Royal Hospital: instead of looking after him, they called the police to deal with him. And we have heard about the brute force with which the police held Seni in a prolonged restraint which they knew to be dangerous: a restraint that was maintained until Seni was dead for all intents and purposes.
In light of the evidence we have heard, we consider that the prolonged restraint that resulted in Seni’s death was not and cannot be justified, and we now look to the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider the case, so that the officers involved in the restraint may be brought to answer for their actions before a criminal court. This is necessary, not just in the interests of justice for Seni, but also in the public interest, so that the police are seen to be accountable to the rule of law.
The officers involved in the restraint have not been able or willing to offer any word of condolence or regret in their evidence, in the same way that none has been forthcoming from any of their managers or superiors in the Metropolitan Police over these years. That lack of simple human decency is telling, and the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has an opportunity to put it right. We call on her to meet with us, so that we may help her to take responsibility for Seni’s death, to understand the lessons that need to be learnt, so that other families need not go through what we have had to endure.
As a family, we couldn’t have got through the last seven years without our Christian faith, the support of our family, friends and legal team, and the unending strength we have gained from the team and other families at INQUEST and the United Families and Friends Campaign.”
Seni’s parents, Aji and Conrad Lewis, in response to inquest conclusion on 9th May 2017.
Read more about Seni’s story, including updates here.