Steve launches Seni’s Law to protect mental health patients
Steve Reed MP has introduced a new law to end the use of excessive force against mental health patients, an issue that has led to a number of deaths.
The Labour MP for Croydon North introduced Seni’s Law in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19 July – named after Thornton Heath resident, Olaseni Lewis, who died as a result of being forcibly pinned down by 11 police officers after his family sought help when he showed signs of mental ill health.
Steve Reed’s new bill, officially known as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, will require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training so staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill health.
According to the charity INQUEST, there have been over 1500 deaths in custody since 1990. Many suffered from mental ill health, with a disproportionate number of those who die in custody from black and minority ethnic communities.
Steve Reed MP worked closely with the Lewis family to secure justice for their son. It took seven years of campaigning until a Coroner’s verdict in May this year officially recognised that severe failings by the police and mental health services had led to Seni’s death.
MPs will debate and vote on the Bill in November. MPs from all parties have already backed the new law and there are hopes it will win enough support to get onto the statute books. Seni Lewis’ parents, Aji and Conrad, have given their full support to the proposal, as have INQUEST who support families of people who have died in custody.
Steve Reed MP said:
Seni Lewis was a young man from Thornton Heath with his whole life ahead of him. But he died after his parents took him to hospital for help when he showed signs of mental ill health. Instead of receiving the care and understanding he needed, he was subject to severe physical restraint by 11 police officers until he stopped breathing. I want Parliament to pass Seni’s Law to make sure the serious mistakes that led to Seni’s death can never happen to anyone else.
Steven Reed is Labour MP for Croydon North and Shadow Minister for Children and Families. In 2018 his private member’s bill on reducing violent mental health restraint became law. In June 2019 he launched Labour’s civil society strategy outlining radical plans to empower citizens and communities.
Steve chairs the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, was Leader of Lambeth Council 2006-12 where he led the council’s children’s services to become best-rated in the country and pioneered the public-health approach to tackling violent youth crime. He worked in publishing for 16 years and was an elected trade union branch secretary.