- Seni’s Law bans the use of violent restraint and tackles deaths in custody
- First major Act of Parliament by a Labour MP in opposition for 22 years
Seni Lewis, 21, was a young black graduate from South Norwood. He died face-down on the floor in a mental health hospital after police officers handcuffed his hands behind his head, put his legs in shackles, and took it in turns to sit on him until he had a heart attack and went into a coma. His parents, Aji and Conrad Lewis, asked Steve Reed for help to get an inquest opened into his death. That inquest slammed the police and mental health services and called for change to prevent more deaths in mental health custody.
Steve introduced Seni’s Law into Parliament to ban the use of violence against mental health patients like Seni. Far too many vulnerable patients have died or been injured, with a disproportionate number of them women, children or young black men. Local Labour Party members in Croydon North campaigned alongside Steve to change the law, speaking to local community groups and collecting signatures for a petition. Seni’s Law was finally approved last year – the first time in 22 years that a Labour MP in opposition has successfully brought in a major new Act of Parliament.
I was so proud when Seni’s Law became an Act of Parliament last year – people with mental ill health deserve to be treated with care and compassion not with cruelty. This major new law stands as a lasting testament to Seni Lewis’s life and will make sure no one else suffers and dies the way he did
Steven Reed is Labour MP for Croydon North and Shadow Minister for Children and Families. In 2018 his private member’s bill on reducing violent mental health restraint became law. In June 2019 he launched Labour’s civil society strategy outlining radical plans to empower citizens and communities.
Steve chairs the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, was Leader of Lambeth Council 2006-12 where he led the council’s children’s services to become best-rated in the country and pioneered the public-health approach to tackling violent youth crime. He worked in publishing for 16 years and was an elected trade union branch secretary.