The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill was brought forward by Steve Reed MP, a backbench Labour MP, following the death of Olaseni Lewis, 23, in Reeds’ Croydon constituency. Lewis died soon after being restrained by 11 officers in Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham. The bill, known as “Seni’s Law”, aims to strengthen legislation around the oversight and management of the appropriate use of force in relation to people in mental health units and similar institutions. It is one of a number private members' bills brought forward by individual MPs each year, all of which are outside the government’s legislative programme.
The first version of the bill was introduced to the House of Commons in November, with provisions designed to improve training, reporting and investigations around the use of force—as well as the use of body cameras by police officers. Unusually for a private members bill—which are usually used by backbench MPs and lords as a vehicle to raise publicity around an issue, but do not usually progress beyond debate—the government has pledged its full support for the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill and is currently working with Reed to make amendments and revisions.
Since then, CPI has met with the Department for Health and Social Care to share its expertise and recommendations, with the aim of making the ‘training’ section of the bill as comprehensive as possible, so that the restraint training environment is as safe as it can possibly be. CPI is also keen that the definition of “physical restraint” used in the bill is in line with NICE guidelines.
Once amendments have been decided, these will be scrutinised by a specially formed committee of MPs from across the political spectrum—this is due to take place over the coming weeks. If the bill successfully passes through this committee stage, the updated bill then returns for debate and a final vote in the House of Commons. If successful in the Commons, the final stage will be for it to win the approval of the lords—where it is also subject to change—before passing into law.