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Met police to hold gross misconduct hearing on restraint death of Olaseni Lewis behind closed doors

Empress State Building
Lillie Road, London, SW6 1TR
Opens Monday 11 September – scheduled to last four weeks

The hearing will not be open to the public

A Metropolitan Police disciplinary hearing will take place on Monday, examining whether the actions of six police officers relating to the death of Olaseni Lewis amount to gross misconduct.

The conduct of those six officers was the subject of strong criticism by an inquest jury in May 2017 when they concluded that Olaseni, aged 23, died as a result of prolonged restraint by involving the six officers (and others who have since left the police service) at Bethlem Royal Hospital, part of the South London and Maudsley “SLAM” Mental Health Trust, on 31 August 2010.

For full information on the circumstances of Olaseni’s death see the press release which following the inquest conclusion here.

Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said:
“This is a case of significant public interest and the process for holding police to account must be an open and transparent one. Justice cannot be served behind closed doors.
In May an inquest jury concluded that excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints applied by Met officers during their prolonged restraint of Seni Lewis was disproportionate, unreasonable and contributed to his death. 

That the Met have responded to this most controversial death by insisting that the misconduct proceedings should take place in private, and that the IPCC have failed to direct a public hearing is difficult to fathom. This is a misguided decision removing necessary transparency and will inevitably raise public questions and suspicion in both the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC.”

Aji and Conrad Lewis, Olaseni’s parents said:
“We have seen for ourselves over the seven years and more since Seni’s death that the IPCC is simply not fit for purpose: they have failed us repeatedly, first in the conduct of an initial investigation that was so inadequate that it was found to be unlawful and quashed by the High Court in 2013; then in the conduct of a reinvestigation that amounted to a mockery of the job that was required of them; and now in a decision that shows clearly that they simply do not have the ability or the will to understand that the importance of their role in ensuring that the police are not only accountable but seen to be accountable. 

It is most regrettable that, for their part, the Metropolitan Police can be expected to hide behind closed doors in connection with this hearing of the gross misconduct charges against the officers who were involved in the unlawful and fatal restraint leading to Seni’s death.  However, the fact that they are being allowed to do so is a matter of utter shame for the IPCC, serving only to erode our confidence in that organisation or, indeed, in the police.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or lucymckay@inquest.org.uk

INQUEST has been working with the family of Seni 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.

• Channel 4 News spoke to the parents of Olaseni Lewis about the hearing this week. See the interview here.

• Seni’s case (alongside the case of Sean Rigg’s) was key to the MPS decision to commission an independent review on mental health and policing (conducted by Victor Adebowale of the charity Turning Point).

• Evidence of Seni’s death was submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of their 2015 enquiry into policing and mental health.  Final report here.

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