20:51 GMT31 October 2020
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    Six London police officers have been cleared of breaching standards of professional behavior after a mentally ill man died in custody in September 2010. The hearing into the death of Olaseni Lewis, 23, was held in secret.

    Seven years a mentally ill black man died in police custody in London and on Friday, October 6 six police officers were cleared of misconduct.

    Olaseni Lewis, 23, had voluntarily admitted himself to hospital and was detained under the Mental Health Act in September 2010. But at one point he became disturbed and was restrained for 10 minutes in handcuffs by police officers based in Bromley, south east London.

    He was taken to a seclusion room in the Bethlem Royal Hospital in south London but after a struggle officers spent 20 minutes restraining him again, during which time he was hit with a police baton.

    Mr. Lewis collapsed and when a doctor examined him he was found to have a very slow heart rate.

    He slipped into a coma and died of heart failure.

    In September 2011 the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled no police officer should be the subject of misconduct proceedings.

    But the IPCC ordered a reinvestigation after the High Court quashed its findings in 2013.

    An inquest jury recorded a narrative verdict in May this year, outlining a number of mistakes which were made which led to Mr. Lewis's death.

    But on Friday, after a secret hearing lasting several days, an independent panel found none of the officers involved had committed misconduct.

    "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," said his parents Conrad and Aji Lewis, in a statement.

    "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," they said.

    The pressure group Inquest tweeted in response to the outcome.

    "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," said Deborah Coles, director of Inquest.

    "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," she added. 

    The officers who are understood to have been cleared were Sergeant Simon Smith, PC Michael Aldridge, PC Stephen Boyle, Detective Constable Laura Curran, PC Ian Simpson and PC James Smith.

    "Our sympathies remain with the family and friends of Mr Lewis. I would take this opportunity to repeat on behalf of the Met that we are sorry for their loss, and the circumstances in which Mr Lewis died," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin.

    "The outcome of the coroner's inquest raised a number of important issues for the MPS, and policing nationally, to consider in relation to restraint techniques and training. I would reassure Mr Lewis' family that over the seven years that have passed since Mr Lewis died, the way in which the Met would respond to someone in mental health crisis in a medical institute has fundamentally changed," added Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin.

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    Tags:
    black and ethnic minorities, mental illness, custody, Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom, London
    Community standardsDiscussion