Remembering Seni Lewis: 10 Years On

Seni Lewis passed away on the August Bank Holiday Weekend of 2010. He was 23.

10 years after his death, we remember Seni Lewis as the adventurous, academic, athletic and caring young man that he was. We celebrate the achievements that have been made under his name thanks to the hard-work of those who loved him.

Seni’s mother, Aji Lewis, describes her son’s love of sport. “He loved basketball, football, boxing; he was quite health conscious. He had lots of friends and was very popular at school. He had a pretty face; the girls liked him.”

Aji recalls a memory of a family holiday in Florida, when Seni was a young boy. On the trip, Seni volunteered to hold a snake and went jet skiing. “Seni was an adventurer.”

“We asked him not to go out too far but he’d gone anyway. We he came back, he had a look that said he knew that he was in trouble. He asked me, ‘Mum, how far is Cuba?’ I said, ‘Cuba?’”

Seni had jet-skied out so far because he had thought that he could get to Cuba. “I suppose on a map Cuba looks near to Florida” Aji laughs as she tells the story now.

Proudly, Aji recounts how Seni always stood up for the marginalised: “he hated bullies.”

There was an occasion when Aji received a phone call from Seni’s school. It transpired that the headmaster was calling Aji to tell her how her son had defended the younger boys from the school bully. The headteacher had said: “I’ll have to have Seni come and work in my office,” and informed Aji that Seni had received handshakes on his way to the headmaster’s office after the incident.

As a young adult, Seni excelled in academia. He had studied IT at Kingston University and by the age of 23, Seni already had a degree and a masters.

Seni was aiming to go to America to study for his PhD.

Under Seni’s name immense achievements continue to be made.

In 2018, Seni’s Law was passed in the UK. Aji describes this as “a miracle.”

Seni’s Law affects mental health units, though Aji hopes that this will go further. The law mandates police officers to wear body cameras should they be called to a mental health ward.

There has to be a trainer in these units, who is responsible for the agency and contracted staff being properly skilled in de-escalation techniques.

“The idea is to get away from restraint as much as possible,” Aji explains. “and to not call the police at the slightest commotion. The police have no right to be in a mental institution.”

Anytime there is a restraint made in a unit, under Seni’s Law, a report now has to be made about the event.

The aim of the law is to make mental health units safer for patients. Aji does not want anybody to go through what she went through in losing Seni.

“Seni died, but I don’t want it to be in vain. He died and other people were saved; that’s what I would like.”

Seni’s Law received cross-party support. It received the Queen’s Assent in a matter of days. It is only the second labour MP private party bill to become law in 22 years.

What an immense achievement.

Aji Lewis now speaks to NHS staff and police officers about Seni’s death and the risks of restraint.

She proclaims: “in order for me and my family to heal, to move forward and to fight for justice, we had to forgive. I will never forget; but it is by God’s grace that I am able to forgive.”

Seni Lewis: an adventurer, an athlete, an academic and an achiever in every sense of the word. We remember him.