Six police cleared over death of man restrained in London hospital (The Guardian)

Damien Gayle, The Guardian

Olaseni Lewis, 23, died three days after he was restrained for more than 30 minutes by police at Bethlem Royal hospital

Ajibola Lewis, the mother of Olaseni Lewis, addresses campaigners after a procession to Downing Street.
  Photograph: Ajibola Lewis, the mother of Olaseni Lewis, addresses campaigners after a procession to Downing Street.

PC Simon Smith, PC Michael Aldridge, PC Stephen Boyle, DC Laura Curran, PC Ian Simpson and PC James Smith had denied a number of allegations of misconduct and gross misconduct over the death of Olaseni Lewis on 3 September 2010.

An inquest this year found that “excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints” used by police on Lewis “were disproportionate and unreasonable” and were likely to have led to his death from a hypoxic brain injury and cardiorespiratory arrest.  

Assistant chief constable Tony Blaker, who chaired the disciplinary hearing at the Metropolitan police’s Empress State Building in west London said any failings by officers “were matters of performance which would fall to be dealt with by a different statutory procedure, outside the remit of this panel.”

The decision to hold the misconduct hearing without press or public in attendance has been sharply criticised by the parents of the victim.

Lewis, who was 23, died three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police lasting more than 30 minutes. He had no history of violence or mental illness and had been taken to the hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill-health that began over the August bank holiday weekend.

Although Lewis attended Bethlem Royal hospital for an overnight stay as a voluntary patient, when he tried to leave, at about 9.30pm on 31 August, a doctor called police to ask for their assistance in detaining him under the Mental Health Act.

The struggle with police attempting to lock him in a seclusion room caused the injuries that led to his death. “Mr Lewis’s behaviour changed when he was brought to the doors of the seclusion room,” said Blaker. “It is apparent that Mr Lewis was determined not to be locked in the room.”

Blaker said there was nothing the panel had heard or read to indicate that officers had used force in any way contrary to their training. He said the panel accepted the evidence of officers who said they thought Lewis was feigning unconsciousness during the restraint in an effort to escape the seclusion room that hospital staff had asked them to place him in.

Despite accepting that to onlookers “the restraint of Mr Lewis may have looked chaotic and confused”, Blaker said there was nothing to show a failure of leadership by the officers in charge, adding that in such a situation “officers can and do fulfil roles without them being assigned to them”.

Lewis’s parents, Conrad and Ajibola Lewis, watched as Blaker read out the allegations against the six officers and announced each as “not proved”. Outside, their solicitor, Raju Bhatt, read a statement on their behalf calling for a meeting with Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, to ensure lessons are learned from the tragedy.

“We had taken Seni to hospital because we thought it was the best place for him when he became ill,” the statement said. “But instead of receiving the help and care he needed, he met with incompetence, hostility and worse: from the management and staff at the hospital, who were so poorly trained that they felt it necessary to call the police to deal with him when he was agitated; and even more so from the police officers who answered that call. […]

“They held him down … in a prolonged restraint which they knew to be dangerous, until he went limp. And even then, instead of treating him as a medical emergency, they simply walked away, leaving Seni on the floor of a locked room, all but dead. That is how we lost our son.”

Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest, said: “Seni was brutalised, neglected and failed and yet no one person at an individual or senior management level has been held to account.

“After a seven-year wait, this is a bitter outcome for Seni’s family. We are a lesser society for a system that fails to hold to account police action leading to these preventable deaths from our community.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, in charge of the professionalism portfolio at the Met, said the force was sorry for the loss felt by Lewis’s family and friends.

He said: “The outcome of the coroner’s inquest raised a number of important issues for the MPS, and policing nationally, to consider in relation to restraint techniques and training. I would reassure Mr Lewis’s family that over the seven years that have passed since Mr Lewis died, the way in which the Met would respond to someone in mental health crisis in a medical institute has fundamentally changed.”

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Police watchdog to hold misconduct hearing in secret over man’s death (The Guardian)

   and , The Guardian

IPCC criticised for barring press and public from disciplinary hearing of six Met officers over death of Olaseni Lewis

Scotland Yard sign Six Metropolitan police officers are accused of gross misconduct over the death of Olaseni Lewis. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

A disciplinary hearing of six police officers who have been accused of gross misconduct over the death of a 23-year-old man who died after a prolonged period of restraint seven years ago will begin in secret on Monday.

The decision to hold the IPCC hearing without press or public in attendance takes advantage of a loophole in misconduct regulations and has been sharply criticised by the parents of the victim, Olaseni Lewis.

Aji and Conrad Lewis said it was a “matter of utter shame for the IPCC, serving only to erode our confidence in that organisation or, indeed, in the police”.

New regulations implemented by Theresa May in 2015 require police misconduct hearings to be held in public, although exceptions can be made. However, because Lewis died in September 2010, this one is being held with the press and public excluded, although his family will be able to attend.

Lewis’s death came three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police lasting more than 30 minutes, while in the care of Bethlem Royal hospital in south London.He had been taken to the hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill health that started over the August bank holiday weekend. He had had no history of violence or mental illness. 

In May an inquest jury concluded that excessive force had contributed to his death. The jury identified a series of failures by police and medical staff, saying: “The excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints were disproportionate and unreasonable. On the balance of probability, this contributed to the cause of death.”

Police failed to act in accordance with their training and recognise his acute behavioural disorder as a medical emergency, the jury added.

Justifying its decision, the IPCC said: “There is a legal presumption that this hearing should be held in private, as it predates new laws requiring the vast majority of gross misconduct proceedings to be held in public.”

The decision to hold the disciplinary hearing in private was taken in August by the IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts.

She acknowledged that “the facts of this case are undoubtedly grave”, but added that the issues were complex. She said the officers and hospital staff had been faced with very difficult circumstances. “It is also clear that the officers are not accused of wilful mistreatment, but rather a series of very serious failures to follow their guidance and training on dealing with situations of this nature.”

The Metropolitan police officers could be dismissed if the accusation of gross misconduct is upheld at the end of the hearing, which is expected to last a month. They are Simon Smith, Michael Aldridge, Stephen Boyle, Laura Curran, James Smith and Ian Simpson.

May took a personal interest in the case while she was home secretary. She ordered a key report into deaths in police custody after meeting the families of Lewis and another man.

Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest, which campaigns for the families of people who have died after contact with the police, said the secrecy was “misguided”. “This is a case of significant public interest and the process for holding police to account must be an open and transparent one. Justice cannot be served behind closed doors.”

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Father of James Herbert says justice processes have failed once again as Avon & Somerset Police dismiss allegations of misconduct (INQUEST)

Father of James Herbert says justice processes have failed once again as Avon & Somerset Police dismiss allegations of misconduct

6 September 2017

Misconduct hearing into Insp Justin French
Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters
5 – 6 September

Inspector Justin French of Avon and Somerset Constabulary this week faced a gross misconduct hearing concerning the death of 25 year old James Herbert in 2010. French (acting Inspector at the time) faced allegations of gross misconduct concerning his actions and his account of events following James’s death, including in his evidence to the inquest.

The proceedings followed a reinvestigation into James’s death, after new evidence was brought to light at the inquest.

Avon & Somerset police said ‘A panel, led by an independent Legally Qualified Chair, found allegations of gross misconduct were not proven against T/Insp Justin French’.

Tony Herbert, Father of James Herbert said:
“Over seven years after James’ death, another process has exonerated a police officer. The processes of investigation and justice have once again failed to hold anybody or any institution accountable. This is utterly wrong but predictable. We believe that the decision taken today to exonerate Sergeant French was another stroke of the same whitewash we have been seeing for seven years. Nobody is ever going to be held to account for any aspect of James’ death, and that is something in my heart of hearts I realised quite some time ago.

We look forward to the release later this month of Six Missed Chances, a ground-breaking report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is trying to ensure some learning takes place as a result of James’ wholly avoidable death. If that happens, future lives may be saved. Let us hope that this can happen.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“It is difficult to reconcile this outcome with the facts. There was very clear evidence that the account given by Justin French at the inquest was false, yet the panel inexplicably found the allegations of misconduct not proved. Time and again we see false narratives generated by police about the alleged violence of the deceased in order to justify their actions. This case has been 7 years of delay, denial, defensiveness, and poor investigations. We have to question a system that consistently fails to deliver accountability after preventable police related deaths.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information and interview requests, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or lucymckay@inquest.org.uk

INQUEST has been working with the family of James Herbert since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors and Alison Gerry of Doughty Street Chambers.

  • Now the misconduct hearing has concluded, later this month the IPCC will be releasing a report called ‘Six Missed Chances’ using James Herbert’s death as a case study to make national recommendations for the police service to achieve best practice in dealing with vulnerable people with mental health difficulties.
  • Coverage of the proceedings can be found in the Guardian article:‘ Police inspector lied about man with mental health issues who died in cell, hearing told’
  •  Other upcoming cases involving police related deaths include:
    – Three police officers will stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court, facing charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice in relation to the death of Kingsley Burrell on 11 September.
    – A misconduct hearing around the death of Olaseni Lewis will also begin on 11 September.
    – The inquest of Joseph Phuong, who suffered from mental ill health and died following police contact in June 2015 opened at the Royal Courts of Justice, London on 4 September.

Further delays for Home Office review of deaths in custody and the treatment of victims’ families (Channel 4)

Further delays for Home Office review of deaths in custody and the treatment of victims’ families

 Senior Home Affairs Correspondent, Channel 4

A major Home Office review into deaths in custody has been delayed.

“I have been struck by the pain and suffering of families who are still looking for answers.”

The words of Theresa May, spoken when she was Home Secretary back in July 2015.

She was addressing an audience mainly of parents whose sons had died at the hands of police.

This week, many had been expecting the publication of a major review the now-Prime Minister had set up to tackle what she termed the evasiveness and obstruction which has confronted those families in their search for accountability.

But the review has been delayed. It was handed in at the start of the year. Now the Home Office do not intend to publish it for at least another two months.

So many of those who gave evidence to Dame Elish Angiolini’s inquiry were convinced to do so by Ms May’s words of intent.

Yet they’ve heard nothing since. One, the mother of Olaseni Lewis (pictured above and below) a 23-year-old graduate who suffered a restraint death in 2010, told me they have had no contact with current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.

“I would have thought she might have asked to meet us. Not heard anything,” she said.

By extraordinary timing, five of these death in custody cases arrive at some form of hearing over the next fortnight.

They are made up of three gross misconduct hearings against a total of 10 police officers from 3 different forces, a criminal trial of 3 police officers and an inquest.

They include two restraint deaths back in 2010 of men suffering mental health problems, a third who died in the caged rear of a police van after allegedly being bitten by a police dog then tasered, and another again involving someone detained under the Mental Health Act.

All bar one will be open to public scrutiny. The one involving the death of 23-year-old Olaseni Lewis, which has taken seven years to get to the point of holding Metropolitan Police officers to account, will be held behind closed doors.

It’s acknowledged at issue are allegations of ‘very serious failures’; that it is a high profile case; that there is great concern and low levels of confidence among BME communities about police treatment of mental health sufferers;  and there are grave matters here.

But not grave enough, it would seem, for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to allow proceedings to take place in public.

So If Theresa May’s review was part of her social justice mission, then there is a real risk it will be too late to have any real meaning.

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Blame the Home Office if another black person dies in police custody (The Guardian)

Stafford Scott, The Guardian

Many families have sought to understand exactly why a loved one has died while in the custody of the police. The failure of the Home Office to release the long overdue report by Dame Elish Angiolini into such deaths is appalling.

According to the justice charity Inquest, since 1990 there have been 1,061 deaths in custody with barely a handful of prosecutions of any police officers involved. (I have supported a number of families in their quests to find answers). Needless to say there have also been no convictions of a police officer implicated in these deaths, even though several inquest juries have delivered verdicts of unlawful killing.

The still unpublished report, which the Guardian has seen, says that there is “evidence of disproportionate deaths of black and minority ethnic people in restraint-related deaths.” And according to a statement from Inquest: “Black people are disproportionately more likely to die following the use of force by police.”

Had the Angiolini report been published in the summer of 2016 – as promised by the then home secretary, Theresa May – and its recommendations acted upon, there is a possibility that lessons would have been learned that would have made deaths like that of Rashan Charles last July – while being apprehended by police – less likely: video footage shows the 20-year-old being wrestled heavily to the ground by a uniformed officer.

We will never know, sadly, but what we do know is that since May left the Home Office there has been a change in position. Rather than seeking to hold the police to account, the Home Office now appears to be giving ever more support to whatever the police wish to do, particularly with the black community. It was only last month that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, backed the Met police’s increase in stop-and-searches on young black youths.

For those of us who have been engaging with such issues for a long time, we know that this will not lead to less knife crime. More unnecessary stop-and-searches will only lead to a further loss of confidence in the police from the black community. The same goes for the failure to release the Angiolini report.

It really is no surprise that relationships between the police and black communities across the country are at an all-time low. Black people are at least four times more likely than white people to be stop-and-searched; twice as likely to be Tasered; twice as likely to be arrested and charged; more likely to be convicted and to receive longer custodial sentences. Black people are even more likely, especially black women, to have the “spit hood” used on them by police.

The home secretary should be holding the police to account instead of covering their backs by not releasing this critical report. Families who lost loved ones at the hands of the police may not have received what they considered to be justice through the courts, but they would want to know that there has at least been some institutional learning from their losses – that this won’t happen to anyone else again.

Rudd’s reluctance to give them that meagre sense of justice is truly baffling – and while she sits on this report, the likelihood that someone else will die in police custody increases. Should this happen then the blood trail will lead all the way up to the Home Office, and the home secretary herself.

 Stafford Scott was a co-founder of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985, and is now a consultant on racial equality and community engagement

It’s time for police to admit their mistakes (New Statesman)

Already this summer, four people have died after contact with the police. At least three of them were black men who died following police restraint. Last Saturday, 20-year-old Rashan Charles lost his life after being pinned to the floor of a convenience store, and restrained by an officer and another person in plain clothes.

These deaths aren’t included in the latest annual report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which covers the year ending 31 March 2017. But the deaths of Rashan, Edir Frederico da Costa, Darren Cumberbatch, and a 16-year-old boy, who died in a crash during a police pursuit, recall those who have lost their lives during or following police contact in the months preceding them: Mzee Mohammed, Dalian Atkinson, Mohammed Yassar Yaqub.

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, there were 32 road traffic fatalities involving police, an increase from the previous year and the highest since 2008-09. In the same period, there were 55 fatalities from “apparent suicides following police custody”. Six people died from “police shootings”, the highest since 2007/08. Fourteen people died “in or following police custody”, and there were 124 “other deaths following police contact” independently investigated by the IPCC.

“Deaths in or following police custody” is not as high compared to other categories, however deaths that happen while a person is being arrested or taken into detention are some of the most controversial. That there was no reduction in the number who died in or following police custody, compared to the previous year, suggest past mistakes are being repeated and systemic failures persist.

Over half of the 14 deaths were of people with schizophrenia, depression or self-harming or suicidal tendencies. Similarly, two thirds of the 124 who died following other police contact had mental health issues.

The most common reason for this other type of police contact was related to the safety or wellbeing of those who lost their lives. Twenty-six people died from the police responding to their health, injuries, intoxication, or a “general” incident, while 23 people died from the police responding to a concern about their self-harm, risk of suicide, or mental state. Of these 23 people, 35 per cent were black and minority ethnic (BME).

The individual stories show an even more disturbing picture than the raw numbers. Officers often encounter people with mental health conditions, yet treat them as criminals. In the case of Mzee Mohammed, he remained in handcuffs even when he finally received medical care. The police should be called as a last resort to deal with someone having a mental health crisis, but in many cases of deaths in custody, evidence shows they take it upon themselves to intervene.

In 2014, Staffordshire police handcuffed and detained Darren Lyons, who had a history of mental illness and alcohol dependency, instead of getting him medical help. An inquest heard he died after being left half-naked on a cell floor, covered in his own faeces. Similarly in 2012, Thomas Orchard was left lying unresponsive, after being put in restraints and having an emergency response belt wrapped around his face.

Although the police do not have the expertise of mental health workers, they are trained in using force proportionately, reasonably and when necessary. Members of the public experiencing a mental health episode have complex needs and it can be hard to understand the condition they are suffering from to provide appropriate assistance. This is a challenge for police officers, however using force can exacerbate a situation and even lead to death. In 2016, Dalian Atkinson, at the time suffering a mental health crisis, died after being Tasered and physically restrained by West Mercia officers.

The charity Inquest reports that the majority of its police-related cases in recent years “have involved the death of vulnerable individuals in some form of mental health crisis”. Its analysis in November 2016 of deaths in police custody since 1990 suggested that the “use of force/restraint is more likely to be a feature of the circumstances of BME deaths in police custody” and “the proportion of BME deaths in custody where mental health-related issues are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in white deaths in custody”.

Earlier this year, an inquest jury criticised the Metropolitan Police for excessive, unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate restraint on Olaseni Lewis, a 23-year-old black man, who died in 2010 at a psychiatric hospital.

Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, drew attention to the fact that the “evidence heard at this inquest begs the question of how racial stereotyping informed Seni’s brutal treatment”. Met officers, instead of attending to Seni’s welfare, left him once he was unresponsive after prolonged restraint, because they believed that he may have been “faking it”. This disregard of a black life recalls the institutionally racist death of Roger Sylvester in 1999.

Seni’s case was pivotal in leading to the independent review into deaths in police custody, conducted by Dame Elish Angiolini QC. The publication has been postponed, on many occasions. The delay follows a common experience bereaved families constantly have with the police, the IPCC and the Crown Prosecution Service in their struggle for justice.

Despite deaths related to Tasers, spit hoods and firearms, the police have recently called for increases in such equipment and weapons. The Police Federation say they are necessary to protect the protectors. But the protectors are not protecting everyone.

The figures and individual stories show that some officers are threats to vulnerable people, in particular those with mental health issues and from ethnic minorities. Forces have failed to implement recommendations, while the CPS has failed to prosecute unprofessional and abusive police officers. “The officers involved in the restraint have not been able or willing to offer any word of condolence or regret in their evidence,” Seni’s parents responded after the inquest into their son’s death.

To prevent more needless lost lives, the police must first take responsibility and admit their mistakes.

Carson Cole Arthur is policy and communications co-ordinator at the campaign group StopWatch. He is writing in a personal capacity

Father accuses authorities of delaying inquest into son Olaseni Lewis’s police restraint death at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham (Croydon Guardian)

The father of a graduate who died after being restrained by police at a psychiatric hospital has accused authorities of trying to delay an inquest into his son’s death.

Olaseni Lewis, 23, never regained consciousness after being pinned down to the floor by 11 officers when he became agitated in the care of staff at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham on August 31, 2010.

The South Norwood IT graduate was rushed to Croydon University Hospital in a coma, but died four days later on September 3.

A senior coroner today criticised agencies involved in an inquest into his death as “disgraceful” and said they had been “disrespectful to the court and the family”.

Since his death, Mr Lewis’s family have endured more than five years of legal struggles to discover the truth about his death, including a successful High Court battle to overturn the findings of the original police inquiry.

Croydon Guardian: Loving son: Seni and his mother Ajibola

Olaseni Lewis with his mother Abijola

Last September it emerged that Devon and Cornwall Police had opened a fresh investigation into Mr Lewis’s death on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to determine if the Metropolitan Police Service and the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM) should be charged with corporate manslaughter and gross negligence.

However, his family are concerned the police probe will delay a full inquest into his death.

And at a pre-inquest hearing today, the detective leading the investigation admitted the file would not be handed over to the CPS until late next month.

Following the proceedings at Croydon Coroner’s Court, Conrad Lewis said the agencies under investigation were “definitely” trying derail the inquest into his son’s death.

He added: “It’s a process that has been drawn out and it has effects on us every day – especially when people are trying to delay the issue.”

Earlier, in court, senior coroner Selena Lynch said she was “incredulous” at how slowly enquiries were progressing.

During a ten-minute grilling of a lawyer representing SLAM over issues surrounding the disclosure of documents, Ms Lynch said: “The attention to this [case] from the agencies involved has been disgraceful. It has been disrespectful to the court and the family.”

A start date for the full inquest, which is expected to last 10 weeks, has been provisionally set for January 2017 depending on the outcome of the current police investigation.

Mr Lewis, who was known as Seni, was admitted to Bethlem Royal Hospital on August 31, 2010 after two days of uncharacteristically odd and agitated behaviour following a night out with friends.

Hours later, at about 9.30pm, police were called to the hospital after staff reported Mr Lewis “causing a disturbance”.

At least 11 officers arrived and restrained the 23-year-old. During the struggle Mr Lewis “became passive” and “seriously unwell”, according to police, and an ambulance was called to take him to Croydon University Hospital.

On September 3 scans revealed the Kingston University graduate had suffered brain stem death. His life support was switched off the following day.

Following his death, his mother Abijola Lewis said: “We don’t know exactly what happened. We do know they called the police and he ended up in hospital.”

An inquiry carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in 2011 ruled the officers involved should not face criminal charges related to Mr Lewis’s death.

But the case was reopened in August 2013 after a successful High Court challenge by Mr Lewis’s family led to the original verdict being quashed.

In May last year the CPS revealed it would not be seeking prosecutions of the individual officers involved in Mr Lewis’s death.

At today’s hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Cavin, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said he expected the findings of the force’s investigation into possible corporate manslaughter and gross negligence to be handed over to the CPS by the end of May.

He added: “We were conscious of the desires of Mr and Mrs Lewis to ensure the speed of the investigation, and we have been in contact with them throughout.”

But the Lewis family’s counsel Dexter Dias expressed his doubts the new investigation would result in any prosecutions and stressed the importance of the long-delayed inquest.

He said: “What [Mr Lewis’s family] don’t want is for people to be rushed, and what they won’t want is for people not to be ready. But they don’t want it to be kicked into the long grass.”

Andrew Marshall, counsel for the Health and Safety Executive, said the regulator would not itself rule out seeking prosecution over Mr Lewis’s death until the end of the inquest.

Seni Lewis death: IPCC taken to court over report

Original Article can be seen at BBC London News

The family of a man who died days after being restrained by police have asked judges to review the police watchdog’s report on his death.

Olaseni Lewis, known as Seni, died in 2010 after he collapsed during a prolonged restraint by the police.

His parents want the High Court to quash the initial report.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it needed to begin a new investigation, but the Metropolitan Police said that was unlawful.

‘Wrongs were done’

Seni, a 23-year-old IT graduate from Kingston University, died after being taken to hospital when his behaviour became uncharacteristically odd and agitated.

He was restrained three times – first by hospital staff and then by 11 police officers – for 45 minutes before his collapse.

He never regained consciousness and died three days later.

The IPCC ruled in its original report, before it had full access to all the evidence, that no police officer was at fault.

It now says a criminal act may have happened and has told the family to take legal action so that it can reinvestigate.

Mr Lewis with friend

His parents, Ajibola and Conrad Lewis, said: “We feel that by going to the High Court it’s been acknowledged that wrongs were done and they’re going to correct them.

“The IPCC has apologised and said they want to do things right and they want to do another investigation and investigate the police under caution.”

IPCC commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “We take the concerns raised by Mr Lewis’s family seriously and our focus has not shifted from providing them with answers to what happened to their son.

“We have reopened our investigation and have determined that there is an indication that officers may have committed criminal offences and, or, behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings.”

She said the IPCC would not contest their claim and that it would pay their costs.

The Met Police said: “We have always expressed our desire to assist the family in understanding the circumstances of Mr Lewis’s death in any way possible and will continue to co-operate with the IPCC.

“The commissioner is adopting a neutral stance [to the judicial review].”

Met blocks quizzing of officers in probe over restraint death

Original Article can be found at: Evening Standard

08 May 2013

Scotland Yard is refusing to allow officers to be questioned under caution over the death of a university student who was forcibly restrained by police at a psychiatric hospital, a watchdog claimed today.

University graduate Olaseni Lewis, 23, collapsed and slipped into a coma after he was held down by up to 11 police officers at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham in August 2010.

He was put on a life-support machine and died four days later.

Now a police watchdog has accused the Metropolitan Police of refusing to co-operate with a two-and-a-half year inquiry into the death.

In a strongly worded statement the Independent Police Complaints Commission revealed that it had “directed” the Met to “re-refer” the incident to them as a “recordable conduct matter”.

A spokeswoman said: “That would allow the IPCC to interview the officers under criminal caution. The Met has refused to do so.”

The watchdog said the move came after it had reviewed its initial inquiry following concerns from the family.

However, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, head of the Met’s professional standards, said the force had received legal advice that it would be “unlawful”  to refer the matter back to the IPCC. She said: “We are very disappointed that the IPCC has suggested that the Met is now refusing to cooperate with them. This is not the case.”

Mr Lewis, who was studying for a masters degree in business at Kingston University, became unwell after a night out with friends in August 2010.

His family became  concerned about his behaviour and he voluntarily admitted himself to the psychiatric hospital. Within hours Mr Lewis became agitated and staff first tried to restrain him before calling for police help.  Olaseni’s mother, Ajibola, told the Standard: “Why they can’t just allow for the officers to be questioned we just don’t know.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “After careful consideration of all the evidence the CPS will advise the IPCC, including on whether any charges should or should not be brought.”

Met Police attacked for failing mentally ill

Original Article can be found at: Evening Standard

10 May 2013

compiled from various sources

Scotland Yard was criticised today for a series of failings in dealing with vulnerable people with mental illness.

An independent report found “failures in systems, misjudgments or errors by individuals” and “discrimination” by officers that led to the deaths of people with mental health problems.

The study by Lord Adebowale, chief executive of the charity Turning Point, identified 50 people with a mental health issue who had died after contact with the Met in the five years up to 2012.

The majority of deaths were suicides but five involved people who had been physically restrained by police officers.

The independent commission was launched last year at the request of the Met Commissioner after a spate of deaths in custody involving people with a mental health illness, in particular the case of musician Sean Rigg.

The commission, whose members include senior health professionals, a chief constable and a senior lawyer, made 28 recommendations for improving the way police deal with mental health issues.

In the hard-hitting report published today the panel highlights the scale of the problem in London, with figures showing an estimated 15 to 25 per cent of all incidents dealt with by police were linked to mental health.

This equates to 1,626 calls to police every day.

Officers estimated that 20 per cent of their time was involved in dealing with mental health issues.

The study found there were “examples of good professional conduct where police officers were prompt, compassionate and patient” but shortcomings were due to failures in “systems and procedures” as well as the behaviour of individual officers.

The panel declared there were shortcomings in policies, training programmes, leadership and operational processes.

In particular, the report highlights the failure of the Met’s 999 call-handling centre in dealing effectively with mental health calls, a lack of mental health awareness among staff and officers, lack of training in suicide prevention for frontline officers, a “disproportionate” use of force and restraint and poor communication between police and the NHS. The study also criticises the Met’s internal culture, discriminatory attitudes, poor record keeping and a failure to communicate with families.

It says some people with mental health issues complained they were treated like criminals by the police.

The study says disproportionate use of force by police was the most disturbing finding. There were several cases involving black people where it was questionable whether there was a need for the level of force used.

The inquiry found a disproportionate percentage of people from black or ethnic minority communities died where police had been “to some degree, at fault”.

Lord Adebowale said today: “This report is tough reading for the Met. It is tough because people have died.

“I started this piece of work thinking that mental health is not a police problem but I have come to realise that it should be at the core of policing. One in four Britons suffer from mental health challenges at some point.

“The one thing the police have to do is to take this seriously. The commissioner needs to send a message throughout the force that this is not a peripheral issue.”

He added: “Race is an issue but I am not calling the police racists. However, we found evidence of racist attitudes in one case and we found a disproportionate number of Afro-Carribean young men were being subjected to forcible restraint.”

The recommendations include better mental health awareness training and training in the use of restraint of people with a mental illness. The study praised transport police for setting up a “strategic suicide prevention team”.

Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he broadly accepted the Commission’s findings.

He said : “Lord Adebowale’s report provides powerful evidence of the challenges that mental health issues present to the Metropolitan Police.

“It sets out clearly the frequency with which our officers are asked to support people at times of mental health crisis.

“I set up this Commission to help us improve the way we deal with these challenges. We now have an opportunity to make significant progress.”

Time is right for change, say families

The families of two young men who died after being restrained by police gave a cautious welcome to Lord Adebowale’s report but urged the Met to turn words into action.

Sean Rigg, 40, died from a cardiac arrest at Brixton police station in 2008, while IT graduate Olaseni Lewis, 23, died in 2010 after collapsing during prolonged restraint by police at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham.

Today their relatives said the report was a step in the right direction.

Many of its key criticisms, such as the police’s lack of mental health awareness and training, were “obvious” and had been flagged up by earlier, similar reports, they said.

But they also agreed that in light of the spotlight shone on the Met, and police forces in general, because of the phone-hacking and Jimmy Savile child abuse scandals and the Hillsborough report, and with Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s apparent keenness to bring about change, the time could be different.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, from Mitcham, who is Mr Rigg’s sister, said: “I think it is a report that is definitely highlighting the fundamental and systemic failures within mental health and policing and as such we welcome the report. I am just hoping that the Metropolitan Police implements the report’s recommendations because if they do there will be change and deaths in custody of people with mental health issues will be reduced.”

Mr Lewis’s mother Ajibola Lewis, from South Norwood, added: “I hope that Bernard Hogan-Howe is serious and that he means to do something about this problem and that the report is not just a talking shop.

“One feels that he wants to make changes, but I’m not holding my breath. There have been reports before, which like this one stated obvious failings within the police, and those have been shelved.”

Nick Hodgson