A Croydon couple who launched a campaign after their son died while being restrained by police in a psychiatric hospital were praised by MP’s and Ministers at the House of Commons yesterday after a new law was passed giving better protection for mental health patients.
The law was inspired by the story of Olaseni “Seni” Lewis, a 23-year-old from South Norwood, who died after being restrained by 11 police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital. It was later confirmed the cause of death was his brain being deprived of oxygen.
In 2013, Seni’s parents, Ajibola and Conrad Lewis persuaded Croydon North Labour MP Steven Reed to join their campaign for a new law. Reed brought the law forward as a private members’ bill in July of last year and it was given royal assent on November 1.
At a reception at the House of Commons to mark the passing of the new law, Reed said: “Seni’s Law is an attempt to make sure no one else suffers the way he did. There have been too many Seni’s.”
The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018, also known as “Seni’s Law”, requires hospitals to make a record whenever physical force is used and the reasons why it was used, in order to provide transparency and prevent another death like Seni’s. The law also requires any non-natural deaths in mental health units to be automatically looked into. Police officers must wear body cameras that are operating at all times when on duty in a mental health unit when “reasonably practicable”.
In a statement, Seni’s parents, said: “We don’t want any other family to suffer as we have suffered. We don’t want anyone else to go through what our son went through.”
Other MPs attended the event including Jackie Doyle-Price, MP for Thurrock and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department of Health who helped Reed get the bill through Parliament. Representatives from various health organisations showed their support for the law and the protection it will provide, including Unite the Union’s Health Sector and the National Autism Society.
Many documented the reception on Twitter yesterday, highlighting powerful statements used by speakers.
Seni’s mother leads a really heartfelt tribute to her son surrounded by all the friends and family who supported her through the campaign. There are so many!
— NAS Campaigns (@NAScampaigns) November 26, 2018
Seni’s mother addressed the crowd in moving speech, saying that “Seni would be so proud”.
.@JackieDP talks about the inspirational people that Seni’s parents are. “The dignity and courage that they exhibited whilst pursuing the campaign is admirable… Its the best of British!” #SenisLaw pic.twitter.com/4qssrx9xRi
— David Munday (@davidamunday) November 26, 2018
Doyle-Price also spoke, applauding Seni’s parents’ efforts supporting the law’s campaign.
Everyone who campaigned in #SenisLaw has a reason to feel proud, but most importantly, Seni’s mum and family, and @SteveReedMP for tirelessly pushing this law – which will protect so many people in mental health hospitals in the future – through. 👏🏻 @YoungMindsUK @Autism https://t.co/zD4ZjOxRkF
— Jessica Leigh (@jeffica) November 26, 2018
Jessica Leigh, who was in the audience, also said: “This law will protect so many people in mental health hospitals in the future”.