published: 1 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.
The Private Members Bill brought by Steve Reed MP is named after Olaseni ‘Seni’ Lewis, a 23 year old IT graduate who died as a result of prolonged restraint by police officers whilst a voluntary inpatient at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Croydon in 2010.
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.
On 30 October 1998, David ‘Rocky’ Bennett died following excessive restraint in a mental health unit. A public inquiry into his death recommended formal recording of the use of restraint, consideration of racial and gender discrimination, and improved training and oversight.