Seni Lewis grew up in Glossop and still has many family and friends in High Peak so I was extremely saddened to hear of his death after over 30 minutes of forcible restraint by police after he voluntarily admitted himself into Bethlem Royal Hospital in August 2010.
I have spoken to Seni’s family about what a remarkable, talented and friendly young man he was, and how devastating his loss has been for them, so I was proud to mention that when speaking today in support of my colleague Steve Reed MP, who has fought tirelessly to help the family obtain justice for Seni. It is a tribute to their courage and determination that this would not happen to anyone else, that Seni’s family fought for over 6 years for an inquest.
They have now asked for a Bill to require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training so that staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill-health. This Bill is known as Seni’s Law which I supported on Friday 3rd November at Second Reading.
I am sure that you are aware that more than 34,000 people have signed an online petition in support of this Bill, which clearly demonstrates the depth of feeling on this issue. I was pleased that the Government supported the Bill today, although some Conservative MPs called for amendments which may water it down and I would resist that.
More widely, the Government has announced plans for an independent review of the mental health legislation under which people with severe mental illness can be detained for assessment and treatment. A final report containing detailed recommendations is expected by autumn 2018.
I welcome the independent review of the Mental Health Act, which is long overdue. The Government has confirmed that the review will consider issues including: looking at why rates of detention are increasing; examining the disproportionate number of those from certain ethnic backgrounds, in particular black people, who are detained under the Act; and ensuring that those with mental ill-health are treated fairly and protected from discrimination.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. I can assure you that I will continue follow and support the progress of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill 2017-19 closely.