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Officers cleared by Met of gross misconduct following the restraint death of Olaseni Lewis
Hearing held in private Monday 11 September – 5 October 2017
Outcome heard in public 6 October 2017
Six officers have been cleared of any misconduct at a Metropolitan Police disciplinary hearing following the death of Olaseni ‘Seni’ Lewis in 2010. The hearing, which opened on 11 September and was heard at the Empress State Building was intended to examine whether the actions of six police officers relating to the death of Olaseni Lewis in 2010 amounted to gross misconduct.
Olaseni Lewis, a 23 year old IT graduate died as a result of prolonged restraint by MPS officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital (part of the South London and Maudsley “SLAM” Mental Health Trust) on 31 August 2010. The hearing concluded that the failings were outside the remit of the panel and were a “matter of performance”.
In May this year an inquest jury unanimously condemned police and healthcare staff actions, stating that the force used by the police officers over two successive periods of prolonged restraint – including the use of mechanical restraints - was excessive, unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate, and contributed to Seni’s death. For full information on the circumstances of Olaseni’s death and the inquest conclusions see the press release which following the inquest conclusion here.
Earlier this week three officers were found not guilty of perjury at Birmingham Crown Court, relating to the the death of Kingsley Burrell in 2011. One month ago an officer was cleared of gross misconduct at an Avon and Somerset police hearing following the death of James Herbert in 2010.
Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said:
“Yet again we see a misconduct decision which simply fails to reflect inquest evidence which exposed brutal and excessive force leading to Seni’s death. Seni was brutalised, neglected and failed and yet not one person at an individual or senior management level has been held to account. After a 7 year wait, this is a bitter outcome for Seni’s family. We are a lesser society for a system that fails to hold to account police action leading to these preventable deaths from our community.
Many recent cases have shone a spotlight on the mechanisms for holding police to account and the inequality and injustice that prevails. Bereaved families are being consistently failed and traumatised by an investigation system characterised by delay, denial and defensiveness. At its core are concerns that the rule of law does not apply to the police for abuses of power in the same way as it does to an ordinary citizen. This serves only to create a culture of impunity which frustrates the prevention of abuses of power, ill treatment and misconduct.”
Extract of statement by Seni’s parents, Aji and Conrad Lewis:
“Our son, Seni, died because of the prolonged restraint in which he was held down by police officers while he was a patient in a mental health hospital. Six of those officers have been required to face charges of gross misconduct in relation to their handling of Seni: they held him face down, shackled with his hands in two sets of handcuffs and his legs in two sets of restraints. They held him down like that, in a prolonged restraint which they knew to be dangerous, until he went limp. And even then, instead of treating him as a medical emergency, they simply walked away, leaving Seni on the floor of a locked room, all but dead. That is how we lost our beloved son.
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. This disciplinary process and its outcome today will be meaningless unless the Metropolitan Police – and the police service throughout the country – learn to recognise in practice that what happened to Seni is simply unacceptable. “As a first step, we renew our call to the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, to meet with us, so that we may help her to take responsibility for Seni’s death: to understand the lessons that need to be learnt, so that other families need not go through what we have had to endure.” Full statement available here.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• The officers looked at in the hearing were:
- PS Simon Smith
- PC Michael Aldridge
- PC Stephen Boyle
- DC Laura Curran
- PC Ian Simpson
- PC James Smith
• INQUEST has been working with the family of Olaseni Lewis since his death in September 2010. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Raju Bhatt and Sophie Naftalin of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.
• The family campaign can be found at: www.justiceforseni.com
• We await the delayed publication of Dame Angiolini report. In February 2016, the Home Secretary announced an independent review, conducted by Dame Elish Angiolini QC, into Deaths in Police Custody. Seni’s death was one of the pivotal cases leading to that decision. INQUEST Director Deborah Coles was special advisor to the review.
• This year there have been a number of concerning restraint related deaths of black men, including that of Edir Frederico Da Costa, 25, who died Wednesday 21 June in Newham, East London, Darren Cumberbatch, 32, who died Wednesday 19 July in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and J Charles, 20, who died Saturday 22 July in Hackney, East London. Today is the funeral of Rashan Charles, his family have recently issued the statements on their campaign via facebook.
• Analysis of INQUEST’s monitoring statistics suggest that use of force/restraint is more likely to be a feature of the circumstances of BAME deaths in police custody. (Statistics collected since 1990. Analysis conducted in Nov 2016). The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in White deaths in custody.
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