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

Call for full enquiry into death of Croydon man after hospital restraint

Original Article can be found at: This is Croydon Today

Feburary 2013

compiled from various sources

published: This is Croydon Today – March 2013

A PROMINENT figure in Croydon’s black community has called for a full public inquiry into the death of Olaseni Lewis.

Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of the Croydon Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Forum, believes the Department for Health, as well as the police, have serious questions to answer.

More than two years on from the South Norwood man’s death in September 2010, his family are still pushing for answers.

Now Mr Ughwujabo has said that a full public inquiry, initiated by the Department of Health, should be launched if the victim’s family are to be satisfied that Mr Lewis’ needs were properly taken care of.

He said: “It’s clear that in this particular case, there are issues of failure in the processes that have been followed.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the [Independent Police Complaints Commission] to investigate the matter. It’s not a policing matter. [That’s] like asking the Met to investigate the Met.

“I think it’s important for the Department of Health to investigate the matter.”

Prior to his death, Mr Lewis visited Croydon University Hospital after noticing changes in his behaviour, alternating between “calm and agitated phases”.

He was transferred to the psychiatric ward of Bethlem Royal Hospital, where his parents and best friend, Omari, left him for the night.

Later, Mr Lewis’s mother received a call from Omari, informing her of an “incident” at the hospital.

After being told that her son had been taken to Croydon University Hospital, she found him on stabilisers and life-support.

It was later confirmed his death was caused by a brain stem injury which obstructed the flow of oxygen to his brain.

Mr Ughwujabo said the case suggests the NHS’s action plan, “Delivering Race Equality (DRE) in Mental Health Care”, which began in 2005 in a bid to improve the quality of care received by BME patients, had “not gone far enough.”

“These incidents are still happening. We don’t see evidence that race equality is actually embedded in mental health services provided by the NHS,” he added.

“We know that black people are significantly more likely to be physically restrained or medicated, instead of being supported with other therapies.”

A statement from Bethlem Royal Hospital in response to his comments read: “We are determined to continue working with the police to learn lessons.”

A Department of Health spokesperson cited the IPCC investigation and said it would not be carrying out an inquiry of its own, when pressed by the Advertiser.

The IPCC, which previously ruled the officers involved has no case to answer over the incident, is also reviewing its probe.

Sister Kemi Lewis, 34, who co-runs the Olaseni Lewis Campaign for Change and Justice alongside her parents, said her family’s Christian faith has strengthened them since Olaseni’s death.

She said: “[We’re] hopeful that we will get some sort of justice and we’ll find out what the truth is. We want change and it needs to be from the top. We don’t want other families to go through this.

“This is not the kind of thing that you would wish on your worst enemy, at all.”

Mr Lewis’ mother Ajibola previously told us how her son was a ‘gentle giant’ with a ‘zest for life’.

She recalled: “He had a real sense of adventure and fun. He was a lovely, friendly person and wasn’t afraid of new things.”

Read more: http://www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk/enquiry-death-Croydon-man-hospital-restraint/story-18286728-detail/story.html#ixzz2MZAtAUCM
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South Norwood man held face-down by police for 40 minutes at psychiatric hospital dies four days later

Original Article can be found at: This is Croydon Today

Feburary 2013

compiled from various sources

published: This is Croydon Today – Feb 2013

OLASENI Lewis was much-loved by friends and family, had high ambitions to study abroad and a bright future ahead of him. But his life was cut brutally short after dying in intensive care following a fatal police restraint. Nearly two and a half years and two postponed inquests later, David Churchill speaks to a family still battling for answers and justice…

NEXT month, instead of celebrating their son’s 26th birthday, Olaseni Lewis’s parents were destined for an inquest court room to hear the events surrounding his unexplained death.

Olaseni, 23, a successful IT graduate from Kingston University, was pinned face down on the floor by 11 police officers for 40 minutes in a hospital seclusion room, never to regain consciousness, despite having no history of mental or physical illness.

Earlier that day, he had visited Croydon University Hospital with his family to seek professional help after he had begun behaving strangely, alternating between “calm and agitated phases”.

The hospital then sent him for observation in a “section 136 suite” at Maudsley Hospital, a psychiatric facility in south London, where it was decided he required a few days for assessment, treatment and rest.

However, due to his South Norwood address, he was transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, where he admitted himself voluntarily.

Having helped him settle for the night, his father and mother, Conrad and Ajibola, and his best friend, Omari Faria, left him to fall asleep at about 8pm.

But less than four hours later, he was on his death bed wired to a life support machine after being restrained by police.

Ajibola, 63, recalled the moment she left her son at Bethlem for the night on August 31, 2010. She said: “He was fine. He was saying, ‘should I have a bath or get to sleep?’ He was talking about what he might eat and then he said he would go to sleep. He was just fine when we left him.

“I wanted to sleep in the car park of the hospital that night, in the car, because I couldn’t bear to leave him, but my family convinced me to come home.”

But around two hours later, she received a phone call from Omari, telling her of an “incident”.

She said: “I came home to bed and Omari calls to say, ‘have the hospital been in touch? There has been an incident’.

“So I phoned up about 10pm and they said that I should go to Mayday [Croydon University Hospital] where he has been taken.

“So we got to Mayday about midnight and they were stabilising him and then he was put on life support.”

Four days later, brain stem death – caused after oxygen to the brain is obstructed – was confirmed and his life support machine switched off.

But nearly two and a half years later, not one of the 11 officers has been interviewed under caution, which is the procedure that should take place if there is a “possibility” any crime or wrong-doing took place.

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which conducted the investigation into the police, has offered the family no explanations, while both the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the CPS have provided little information.

The family’s lawyer Raju Bhatt, who specialises in neglect of police duty and was appointed to the Hillsborough disaster panel by the Home Office, said officers should “no doubt” have been interviewed under caution and branded the IPCC probe “fundamentally flawed”.

He said: “What we know is, there was a very long restraint in the face-down position and we know that the post mortem has revealed the restraint to be at the heart of the mechanism leading to the death.

“It doesn’t take a super detective to see that there may be issues to consider here.

“There is failure that is a shocking abdication of responsibility. We are placing the burden on this family to raise questions we should be raising on their behalf through the CPS and IPCC.”

Mr Bhatt also does not believe any police officers will be prosecuted and suggested the continual postponement of Olaseni’s inquest is a delaying tactic.

He added: “Time is of the essence in terms of the investigation. Investigative manuals talk about the golden hours.

“In these first few hours the evidence is there and with every hour, let alone every week, month, year, the evidence is dissipated. It is inconceivable they would take this long if they were going to prosecute.

“When you see a performance like this from the authorities, you are left with no option to conclude that what you’re seeing is an exercise explaining away what has happened.”

Although accounts are scant, the family understands that Olaseni, who had become restless, was restrained three times – once by hospital staff and twice by police after being called by nurses.

Bethlem Hospital protocol states police are only to be called in “exceptional” circumstances, but the hospital has refused to say whether there was anything exceptional in Olaseni’s case.

The family said the hospital told them police handcuffed the 23-year-old and led him down some stairs to a seclusion room where he was held, face down on the floor, by 11 officers for at least 40 minutes in two struggles.

He was then said to have been left on his own in the room where he lay motionless before being taken to Croydon University Hospital.

Ajibola, a former lawyer, said: “We are devastated, disappointed and completely disillusioned by the whole thing.

“We want police to be held to account and a thorough, transparent investigation with the police questioned under caution.

“You feel as if you’re victimised over and over again. You’re a victim already, but you’re being victimised again by an investigation that hasn’t been adequate and by the constant delaying.”

Conrad, an IT consultant, said he was concerned the police were investigating themselves, adding: “Here we have one of the highest bodies [IPCC] that is to be respected and should be responsible but they have not fought for our purpose.

“I have sleepless nights. This is what we go through with the delay of the IPCC and the CPS.

“We feel torn to pieces by the whole thing, the handling of the issue and the loss of our son. We just want justice. We can’t put closure to it until we get that.

“I’m not looking for revenge, I’m just looking for justice. There is no compensation enough for the death of my son, but what I would like is to see things being done properly, so no other family has to suffer the same fight we are going through.

“Regardless of what he did, he didn’t deserve to die.”

Ajibola and Conrad spoke fondly of a son who ‘stuck up for people being bullied’ at school, a student who was ‘self-motivated’ and ‘focused on his work’ and who had ambitions to study for a PhD after completing his masters in IT at Kingston University.

He was a ‘gentle giant’ with a zest for adventure and was much-loved by his friends, family and sisters Kemi and Lara.

Mother Ajibola said: “He had a real sense of adventure and fun. He was a lovely, friendly, a lovely person and wasn’t afraid of new things.

“He wanted to study for a PhD in America, which he would have done, we’re sure. He studied IT at Kingston and he loved his computers and was always focused on his work.”

The 63-year-old told how she once received a call from Olaseni’s former head teacher at Archbishop Tenison’s C of E School, informing her he had stuck up for a fellow pupil being bullied at school by older students. “That’s the kind of person he was, always looking out for others,” she said.

She added that on one family holiday in Florida, her son had attempted to reach Cuba by jet ski after going too far out to sea and having to be hauled back.

Conrad said: “He was an achiever. I did IT and he followed me into that.

“He was self-motivated and very successful. Whatever he’d have done he would have been good at it.

“We were very proud of him with what he achieved and the way he was with others. He is missed by the whole family.

“He was a gentle giant and we are never going to forget him.”

Olaseni’s inquest has been postponed for the second time in eight months after CPS received fresh information from the Health and Safety Executive.

A spokesman confirmed the new material was received at the end of January and needs to be considered fully before an inquest takes place in case they decide to prosecute anyone over the death.

The spokesman said: “We continue to carefully review all the evidence in relation to the tragic death of Olaseni Lewis.

“Further material has since come to light, which we are currently considering.

“We understand that the postponement of the inquest is distressing for the friends and family of Olaseni and we are seeking to progress this case as swiftly as possible.”

It is necessary that an inquest does not take place while potential criminal proceedings are considered, as it could later prejudice any trial.

However, the Lewis family’s lawyer, Raju Bhatt, does not believe the CPS’s stalling is a sign they will prosecute. He said: “It is inconceivable they would take this long if they were going to prosecute.”

Scotland Yard said because the case had been referred to the IPCC it could not comment.

A Bethlem Royal Hospital spokesman said a full internal investigation had been carried out after the restraint that led to Olaseni Lewis’s death, ending in a review which has seen practices changed and more meetings between clinicians and police introduced.

The hospital spokesman said: “We are very sorry that this tragic incident occurred and we have offered our sincere condolences to the family of Olaseni Lewis.

“We met the Lewis family to ensure that they had input into our internal investigation and we have shared our conclusions with them.

“We will fully share our investigation’s conclusions with the inquest to be held.

“Following our investigation we instituted meetings with senior police officers in our local boroughs, to review our respective operational policies and how they impact on people with mental health problems, and we have since agreed a joint protocol with them.

“We also meet regularly liaison officers at borough level.

“This autumn we will be launching a new training package with the police and London Ambulance Service that specifically addresses the issues of managing people when they are acutely unwell.”

The IPCC is seeking legal advice in the wake of Olaseni’s death following police restraint, its commissioner, Rachel Cerfontyne, has told the Advertiser.

She said: “The IPCC is taking the concerns of Mr Lewis’s family very seriously and we are reviewing our investigation, including seeking the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service and other legal expert opinion to determine whether there is more we can and should be doing.

“We continue to consult with Mr Lewis’s family to keep them abreast of any developments and we recognise the family’s frustration that they have had to wait for answers as to what happened. Our focus remains on providing them with the most thorough possible investigation.”

Read more: http://www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk/South-Norwood-man-held-face-police-40-minutes/story-18155589-detail/story.html#ixzz2MZA4ltps
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4WardEver Campaign – Brain death after ‘violent’ police restraint

Original Article can be found at: 4WardEver Campaign

October 2010

compiled from various sources

published: 4WardEver UK – October 2010

Olaseni Lewis, known to his family as Seni, was a young black man aged 23 years, engaged in post-graduate Masters studies in IT and Business Management. He had no prior history of mental illness or any untoward behaviour until the evening of Sunday 29 August 2010 when his family and friends noticed that he was behaving strangely, between calm and agitated phases.

They sought professional help, resulting eventually in his admission as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August 2010.

The hospital called the police in order to restrain Mr Olaseni, who they say had become violent, within hours of his family leaving. But after a seven-police restraint at the hospital his airway became blocked and Lewis collapsed and slipped into a coma.

Nurses at the hospital were said to have been “horrified” at the behaviour of the police and later logged their action on the hospital records as “violent restraint”. Highlighting the fact that while the police being called to restrain a patient is common practice, the staff themselves deemed the actions of the police to be excessive.

Olaseni was taken by ambulance to Mayday Hospital where brain stem death was confirmed following tests on 3 and 4 September 2010.

Seni’s family and friends are determined to ensure that all the circumstances of his tragic death are brought under proper scrutiny so that they can obtain the answers that they need from those responsible for the fatal restraint and those to whom their loved one had been entrusted.

A post-mortem examination into the cause of the Olaseni’s death is believed to have been inconclusive. Police sources said officers had been called to deal with a violent patient. He collapsed and officers gave first aid and attempted to revive him. No officers were suspended or placed on restricted duties as a result of the incident

Olaseni is understood to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, which is working with the family and their lawyer said: “This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation into the fatal restraint of a vulnerable black man in need of care and protection.

“INQUEST has worked on far too many cases where dangerous restraint has resulted in the deaths of vulnerable people, a disproportionate number of whom are from black and minority ethnic communities”.

The family and friends of Seni Lewis were grateful for all the very many messages of support and condolence that they have received in the wake of his untimely death.

Evening Standard: Family demands ‘rigorous inquiry’ into death of patient restrained by seven police officers

Original Article can be read here at: Evening Standard.com

Peter Dominiczak and Katie Linsell 15.09.10

The family of a student who died after he was forcibly restrained by up to seven police officers at a psychiatric hospital today called for a “rigorous, far-reaching investigation”.

Olaseni Lewis, 23, from South Norwood, collapsed and slipped into a coma after his airways were restricted at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham on August 31.

Inquest, an organisation speaking on behalf of the Kingston University student’s family, today called his death “deeply disturbing”.

The incident, which is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, only came to light following inquiries by the Evening Standard. It emerged today that Mr Lewis had no history of mental illness but had suddenly started “behaving strangely”.

He was “alternating between calm and agitated phases”, his family said, prompting them to take him to the psychiatric hospital.

Mr Lewis, who was taking a Master’s degree in IT and business management, was then admitted as a vulnerable voluntary patient.

But within hours of leaving him, Mr Lewis is said to have become violent and staff called in police to restrain him, a normal practice at the hospital. However, nurses are said to have been “horrified” at the way officers acted when they arrived.

The Standard has been told that several nurses who witnessed the incident later logged it as a “violent restraint”, meaning they thought inappropriate force was used.

Mr Lewis’s mother, Ajibola, 60, a lawyer who was born in Nigeria, has been left “utterly devastated” by her son’s death. His father, Conrad, an engineer who is separated from Mr Lewis’s mother, paid tribute to his son, who was known as Seni.

He wrote on Facebook, alongside a photograph of him: “This [is] my son Seni Lewis, 23-years-old with a master’s in ICT & management, he died September 3. And [I] also lost my father, his grandfather, on September 7. May their souls rest easy.”

One of Mr Lewis’s neighbours, who did not want to be named, said: “Seni was a lovely kid. He was always smiling, always saying hello to everyone. There was never any trouble with him at all. He was just focused on his degree.”

The IPCC said: “Police restrained Mr Lewis at the request of hospital staff. During the restraint Mr Lewis became passive and it then became apparent that he was seriously unwell.”

An ambulance was called and Mr Lewis was given first aid. Croydon University Hospital confirmed he was brain-dead on September 3, and his life support was turned off the next day.

No officers were suspended or placed on restricted duties after the incident. Hospital chiefs have launched a separate inquiry.

Deborah Coles, of Inquest, said: “This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation.”

Scotland Yard said it could not comment because the case had been referred to the IPCC.

A post-mortem examination was inconclusive and toxicology tests are being carried out.

Black Mental Health UK : Community condemn the death of student after restraint of 7 met officers

Original Article can be read here at: Black Mental Health UK

By Zephaniah Samuels 21/09/10

A host of community activists, health campaigners and church leaders have voiced their outrage at the news of the death of a 23 year old student who lost his life after being restrained of by a team of seven police officers on a psychiatric ward in South London.

End use of prone restraint

Olaseni Lewis lost his life on the same day that Colin Holt a 57 year old black service users also suffered fatal injuries after police went to his home on the 31st of August this year.

These deaths have led to calls for an end to the use of prone restraint on mental health service users and for all mental health providers to phase out the use of calling police to deal with internal incidences within psychiatric settings.

‘It is a shock to learn of this young man's death, and my rage is at the fact that it is happening so often. i can't understand in the 21st century how any community can be treated like this, Bishop Llewellyn Graham, Church of God of Prophesy told Black Mental Health UK.

‘The again shows that system is not working. Rather than spending billions on medication investment should be made in devising more humane intervention when dealing with people who need help. We need to come to a place where there is no restraint in the 21st century we should be able to find other techniques which aren't killing people,' Rev Paul Grey, service user activist said.

These recent deaths have again highlighted the urgency of the need to change how black mental health service users are treated.

‘Olaseni Lewis and Colin Holt are sadly just the latest in a long line of service users who have lost their lives in this way. There is a need for a radical shift in how people from our communities are perceived and treated by those who are paid to care for them. We also need to see full accountability when a death occurs before we will see a change in this arena,' Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

Masters student in IT and business management

Olaseni, known to his family as Seni, was a second year Masters student studying IT and Business Management at Kingston University. Although he had no prior history of mental illness on Sunday 31st August Seni's family and friends noticed that he was behaving strangely, alternating between calm and agitated phases.

They sought professional help, which resulted in him being admitted as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August.

Just hours after leaving the hospital Seni was reported to have become agitated and staff called the police to restrain him. Nurses say that they were horrified at the way officers behaved when they arrived.

Up to seven Met officers proceeded to pin Seni down, and it is believed that he then slipped into a coma after his airway became restricted while at the Bethlam Royal Hospital.

The young man was then taken by ambulance to Mayday Hospital and confirmed brain dead on September 3, his life support was turned off the following day.

No officers have been suspended or placed on restricted duties after the incident, and hospital chiefs at Bethlem have confirmed that they are launching a separate inquiry. Nursing staff who witness the incident after calling the police logged the incident as a ‘violent restraint', meaning that they thought that unnecessary forced had been used.

‘I don't understand why you need seven people to restrain one 23 year old young man – if he was ill and animated – give him a sedative or something. The hospital calling the police makes them culpable because if they hadn't called him he'd still be alive,' Deborah Gabriel lecturer and editor of People With Voices said.

‘It is quite tragic that another young black men has been cut down in his prime by the agencies we expect to protect us. We would have hoped with all the resources and time that has been spent on this matter, that these failings in the system would have been addressed by now,' Olu Alake president of 100 Black Men of London said.

Failure to implement Bennett Inquiry recommendations leading to patient deaths

These recent deaths have highlighted the failure of the million pound Delivering Race Equality Programme, which was rolled out in response to the David Bennett Inquiry report. Back in 1998, Bennett sadly lost his life after he was restrained by a team of up to five nurses for over 25 minutes.

Recommendations set out in the Bennett Inquiry report in order to prevent any more tragic deaths of black men detained under the Mental Health Act. They included ensuring that no patient be restrained in the prone position for more than 3 minutes after. Health campaigners question why 12 years after Bennett's death no progress has been made in this area.

‘To hear that anyone in psychiatric care dies as a result of what are supposed to be therapeutic intervention is appalling. The death of Seni Lewis should not have happen in this day and age. Sadly this is price that black people pay for the failure to implement the recommendation of the Rocky Bennett inquiry,' Prof Sashi Sashidaran, consultant psychiatrist and panel member on the David Bennett Inquiry.

‘What is obvious and clear is that nothing has changed since the David Bennett inquiry in reality. We had a similar situation with one of our own service users here in Wolverhampton so we know that this kind of treatment that is resulting in patient deaths. It begs the question, how many others has this happened to that we are not even aware of,' Alicia Spence services director at the African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) said.

Evening Standard: Probe into death of patient ‘restrained’ by 7 Met officers

The original article can be read at: Evening Standard.com

Felix Allen and Peter Dominiczak 14.09.10

The police watchdog launched an investigation today into the death of a psychiatric patient after he was forcibly restrained by up to seven Met officers.

Olaseni Lewis, 23, believed to be from South Norwood, is thought to have slipped into a coma after his airways were restricted at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham.

He never regained consciousness and died four days later in intensive care at the Mayday hospital in Croydon.

Today the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it is to investigate the man's contact with police at the Bethlem on August 31.

The incident has only just come to light following enquiries by the Evening Standard.

A post-mortem examination into the cause of the man's death is believed to have been inconclusive. Police sources said officers had been called to deal with a violent patient. He collapsed and officers gave first aid and attempted to revive him. No officers were suspended or placed on restricted duties as a result of the incident.

Mr Lewis is understood to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Police in Bromley were called by the hospital staff to help restrain him when he turned violent, a normal practice. However, nurses are said to have been “horrified” at the way the police acted when they arrived.

The Standard has been told several nurses who witnessed the incident later logged it as a “violent restraint”, meaning they thought inappropriate force was used.

A hospital source said: “Staff have been told not to say anything about what happened but everyone who saw it was very concerned. Because of the outrage in the hospital as to the way the police conducted themselves, there was a meeting [about the case].”

Scotland Yard said it could not comment because the case had been referred to the IPCC.

Hospital bosses have launched a separate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death.

A spokesman for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “A patient receiving treatment at the Bethlem Royal Hospital was transferred to Croydon University Hospital on August 31 for urgent medical treatment and sadly passed away on the evening of Saturday September 4.

“We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased. The Trust is investigating the incident as a priority and is working closely with the police. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”

The IPCC said Mr Lewis had been a patient at the hospital for just a few hours when staff called police because a patient was causing a disturbance: “Police restrained Mr Lewis at the request of hospital staff. During the restraint Mr Lewis became passive and it then became apparent that he was seriously unwell.”

An ambulance was called and Mr Lewis was given first aid. Croydon University Hospital confirmed brain-stem death on September 3, and his life support was turned off the next day.

IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for this young man's family. The IPCC is looking into the police response to determine whether or not it was proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances.”

A post-mortem examination was inconclusive and toxicology tests are now being carried out.