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Friday, 06 July 2018

'Seni's law' mental health restraint reforms receive approval from MPs

Written by Richard Wheeler

Tears and applause greeted MPs' approval of mental health reforms known as "Seni's law" in memory of the man whose death inspired them.

Olaseni Lewis (pictured), known as Seni to friends and family, died aged 23 in September 2010 - days after he fell unconscious while being restrained by 11 Metropolitan Police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital in south-east London.

His parents Aji and Conrad watched as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, developed following a campaign for change, moved a step closer to becoming law after receiving an unopposed third reading in the Commons.

They were joined by Marcia Rigg, whose son Sean died in similar circumstances in Brixton in 2008.

The Bill aims to ensure the use of force against patients in mental health units is better governed and requires police to wear body cameras while carrying out restraint unless there are legitimate operational reasons for not doing so.

Labour MP Steve Reed (Croydon North), who brought forward the proposed legislation, said: "Although this Bill is called Seni's law in honour of Seni, it's affected many, many people beyond Seni who have lost their lives or been injured simply because they were unwell.

"The purpose of this Bill is to make sure this can't happen again."

Mr Reed also noted the NHS was marking its 70th anniversary, adding: "What better way to celebrate that occasion than by giving the NHS a birthday present by making it even better - by creating for people with mental ill health in this country some of the best protections anywhere in the world."

The MP praised the families who have led the campaign and quoted Seni's father.

MPs heard Conrad Lewis, when asked how he felt after the Bill completed an earlier stage, said last month: "I bear a burden I'll have to carry for the rest of my life.

"It's a burden I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy and I don't want any other parent to have to carry that burden."

Mr Reed said: "This is our chance to make mental health services safe and equal for everyone."

He added it will create a "lasting and proud legacy" for Seni.

The Bill, which has Government support, will now proceed to the Lords where it will undergo further scrutiny.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Handout.