7 December 2021

Three years after receiving Royal Assent in Parliament, today guidance for Seni’s Law has been published, before coming into force in March 2022. The law increases protections and oversight on use of force in mental health settings.

Formally known as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018, the law is named after Olaseni ‘Seni’ Lewis. Seni was a 23 year old Black man from South London. He died as a result of prolonged restraint by Metropolitan police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham on 31 August 2010.

INQUEST has worked with Seni’s family since his death. Together we worked with the family’s MP, Steve Reed and their solicitor Raju Bhatt, alongside a coalition of NGOs including Agenda, Article 39, Mind, Rethink and YoungMinds to inform and campaign for the law.

Aji Lewis, Seni’s mother said: “I want Seni here with me but they took him away. The police dangerously restrained him to death with mental health hospital staff watching on. The enactment of this law is important to us because we do not want anyone else to suffer like this.

It’s so good to see the guidance published today and the Act being commenced. This is my son’s legacy, and I hope it will mean what happened to Seni will not happen to anyone else.

I look forward to continuing to work with the government and mental health providers to make sure the Act is properly implemented and real change is achieved.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “This is a vital step forward for the safety of mental health patients. It would not have been possible without the commitment of the family of Seni Lewis.  

High levels of restraint are routinely used behind the closed walls of secure settings, inflicting physical and psychological harms and risking lives. Disproportionately restraint is used against Black and racialised people, women and children, young people, and people with learning disabilities and autism.

We hope the protections of this law and greater scrutiny and oversight will drive the cultural change and practice needed, end the abusive use of force and ensure those in crisis are treated with dignity and respect.

This is not the end but the beginning. INQUEST are proud to have worked alongside Seni’s family and their MP Steve Reed. We will continue to work to ensure the guidance and changes arising from this law leave the best possible legacy.”

Steve Reed MP said: “I’m delighted the guidance for Seni’s Law has now been published and a date is in sight for the Act to come into force. Seni Lewis died in tragic and avoidable circumstances. His legacy is this Act and the changes it makes to ensure people with mental ill health are treated with care, compassion and respect.”


For further information, photos of Seni, and interview requests please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

See the full Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018

The inquest into Seni’s death concluded in May 2017. The jury unanimously condemned both the police and hospital staff. Bethlem Royal Hospital is part of the South London and Maudsley “SLAM” Mental Health Trust.

The Act received Royal Assent (becoming law) on 1 November 2018. In the three years since, INQUEST and Seni’s family have been calling for the urgent publication of the guidance, which was long delayed.

The key provisions are scheduled to come into force on 31 March 2022.