The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed that South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) will not face any criminal charges following the corporate homicide investigation into the death of Seni Lewis by Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.
Seni Lewis was 23 years old when he died following prolonged restraint at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in South London on August 31, 2010. Seni was a graduate with no history of mental illness. His family brought him to hospital after he started to exhibit odd and agitated behaviour. Within 18 hours, he had collapsed in the course of prolonged restraint involving 11 police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service. He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead four days later.
Since Seni’s death, there has have been two Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigations, a Health and Safety Executive investigation (which is pending the conclusion of the inquest), and the corporate homicide investigation, which was started in 2015.
Seni’s mother, Ajibola Lewis, said: “Six years after Seni’s death and we are still no closer to the truth. We have been shamefully let down: first, by how Seni was taken from us; second, by the IPCC in its inadequate investigations; third by the Metropolitan Police in their reluctance to cooperate with the disciplinary process, and finally by the delay that the latest investigation has had upon the inquest timetable. We have never received an adequate explanation as to why it took nearly five years for an investigation into SLaM to be launched. We now look to the Coroner to open an inquest so that we can finally get some answers and start to grieve.”
Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST, said: “INQUEST’s casework highlights this is by far an isolated case. Unacceptable and extensive delays are common place and incredibly traumatic for families grieving in such public circumstances. There has never been a corporate manslaughter prosecution for systemic management failings since the deaths in custody provisions of the Corporate Manslaughter Act came into force in 2011.The outcome of these prolonged investigations yield little comfort for the families in delivering democratic accountability of state bodies.”
Sophie Naftalin, solicitor for Seni’s family, said: “The anguish that has been caused to our clients and their family by this delay cannot be overstated. They have lived with Seni’s death every day since he was taken from them over 6 years ago. The Coroner must now promptly confirm a new timetable for the inquest to ensure that the family get the answers that they so desperately seek and which they have patiently waited for. Any further delay to the inquest timetable will in our view amount to a violation of their right to an effective investigation and would be intolerable for this family.”
INQUEST has been working with the family of Seni Lewis since his death in September 2010. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Raju Bhatt and Sophie Naftalin from Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.
Dr Matthew Patrick, chief executive of SLaM, said: “Six years ago, Olaseni Lewis died following admission to the Bethlem Royal Hospital - a devastating event for his family and the wider community. We are deeply sorry that this tragic event occurred and offer again our sincere condolences to the Lewis family, to whom we continue to offer our support.
“We have now been made aware of the CPS’s decision not to prosecute the Trust in relation to these events. Whilst we acknowledge this decision, our thoughts remain with the Lewis family and we share concern that the inquest proceedings could still be delayed further. We remain fully committed to working closely with the Coroner to bring the full circumstances surrounding Mr Lewis's death into the public domain as soon as possible.”