Olaseni Lewis death: Family of 23-year-old who died after being restrained by 11 police officers win legal battle to reopen inquiry

Family claim IT graduate was handcuffed and held for 40 minutes face down at Bethlem Royal Hospital

Paul Peachey
Tuesday 03 September 2013 17:05

The family of a man who never regained consciousness after being restrained by police has won a legal battle to reopen an inquiry to examine the role of 11 officers in his death.

Olaseni Lewis, a 23-year-old IT graduate, died three years ago today after being pinned down on the floor of a mental health hospital where he was taken after becoming agitated.

The family claims he was handcuffed and held for 40 minutes face down at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, Kent, during two prolonged periods by a total of 11 officers. He died four days later.

The High Court decision marks the conclusion of a bizarre set of circumstances which saw the police watchdog back the Mr Lewis’s family’s attempts to have its original flawed inquiry quashed and a new one established.

Ajibola Lewis, the dead man’s mother, said: “We are relieved that the way has finally been cleared for a proper investigation into Seni’s death, even if it comes three years late.

“We hope that both the IPCC and the Met will now allow light to shine upon the truth about Seni’s death.”

The original inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission failed to examine whether any of the officers had committed a criminal offence or interview any of them under caution. The officers were called after Mr Lewis became agitated after his family were told to leave the hospital after he was sectioned and detained at the hospital.

The officers gave written statements of what happened but their accounts of events were never tested. In its report in 2011, the IPCC concluded that no criminal or disciplinary charges should be laid.

Following a complaint by the family, the watchdog decided to reopen its inquiry earlier this year, but the Metropolitan Police said that the investigation had already been completed and the investigation stalled.

The watchdog paid the family’s fees to take the case to court to have the findings of their first flawed inquiry quashed. The case was successful last week, and the case will now be reinvestigated, which could see officers could face criminal or disciplinary proceedings.

Deborah Coles, the co-director of the charity Inquest which has supported the family, said: “It is vital that the new investigation is conducted rigorously and robustly and that any wrongdoing is identified and dealt with appropriately. We can only hope that the IPCC has learned from this whole sorry experience so that no other family will ever have to go through this again.”

IPCC deputy chairwoman Rachel Cerfontyne welcome the ruling. “We are determined to conduct a robust and thorough re-investigation as it is what is to demanded to finally understand what happened to Seni Lewis.”