STUDENT Seni Lewis tragically died as result of being forcibly restrained as volunteer inpatient in a south London mental health unit now a new law will act as his legacy protecting others facing similar circumstances.
The new guidance which comes as a result of a 11 year campaign by the 23-year-old’s family and mother Aji who said:“ What I want is for no one else to die in this way.”
George Floyd’s death in May last year when an American police officer knelt on his neck brought Seni’s tragedy back to national attention.
Around 63,000 people signed the petition calling for Seni’s Law, which also had the backing of more than 25 mental health charities and campaigners.
North Croydon MP Steve Reed drove campaign for the legislation and is only the second Labour MP in opposition in 22 years to get through in Parliament a private member’s bill.
It sets out clear advice to ensure NHS trusts ensuring better accountability and transparency over the use of force.
The Act, known as Seni’s Law, is named after the PhD student from Thornton Heath who he died as a result of being forcibly restrained in 2010 at Bethlem Royal Hospital by 11 police officers as he suffered an acute psychotic episode .
The tragedy exposed poor training in the use of force, racism within mental health services and other serious failings.
An inquest concluded that Seni was the victim of “excessive, unreasonable and disproportionate” restraint.
Six of the officers faced disciplinary proceedings for alleged gross misconduct. They were all subsequently cleared.
Police were called to the Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham, after Seni damaged a door.
Placed in a padded room, he had on two sets of handcuffs, was placed in leg restraints and was hit three times with a baton.
He was forcibly restrained on two occasions ? the first for 10 minutes and the second for 20 minutes. After he lost consciousness, officers were convinced Seni was “faking it” and left him on his own. He died later after suffering a drastic loss of oxygen to the brain.
Aji said: “This is my son’s legacy, and I hope it will mean what happened to Seni will not happen to anyone else.
I look forward to continuing to work with the government and mental health providers to make sure the act is properly implemented and real change is achieved.”
Patients in mental health settings will be better protected from inappropriate use of force following the commencement of landmark regulations and publication of guidance of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 .
The important legislation will protect patients and workforce by providing a much-needed drive for improved record keeping and reporting of data on the use of force, the quality of staff training and the way in which investigations are carried out.
The Act sets out the measures needed to both prevent the inappropriate use of force and ensure accountability and transparency in mental health units, ensuring patients are treated with dignity and respect at all times.
The guidance has been developed following extensive engagement with the mental health sector and a wide range of stakeholders including those with lived experience, the NHS, regulators and Aji Lewis and Seni’s family.
Steve Reed said: “I’m delighted the guidance for Seni’s Law has now been published and a date is in sight for the Act to come into force.
“Seni Lewis died in tragic and avoidable circumstances. His legacy is this Act and the changes it makes to ensure people with mental ill health are treated with care, compassion and respect.
“Seni’s Law forms part of the government’s wider commitment to transform mental health services for those with severe mental illness and follows publication of the Mental Health Act White Paper earlier this year which set out proposals for once in a generation reform.”
The new guidance will make sure trusts will have a clearer understanding on how to comply with the duties under the Act.
Minister for Mental health Gillian Keegan said: “It is vital anyone receiving care in a mental health setting – a time which can be incredibly distressing – is treated with dignity and respect.
“We must ensure what happened to Seni does not happen to anyone else. I want to thank Seni’s family, particularly his mother Aji, and Steve Reed MP for driving this work forward.”