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Call for full enquiry into death of Croydon man after hospital restraint

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A PROMINENT figure in Croydon's black community has called for a full public inquiry into the death of Olaseni Lewis.

Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of the Croydon Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Forum, believes the Department for Health, as well as the police, have serious questions to answer.

Last month, the Advertiser reported how IT graduate Mr Lewis, 23, was pinned face-down on the floor in a hospital seclusion room by 11 police officers for 40 minutes. He never regained consciousness, and his life-support machine was switched off four days later.

More than two years on from the South Norwood man's death in September 2010, his family are still pushing for answers.

Now Mr Ughwujabo has said that a full public inquiry, initiated by the Department of Health, should be launched if the victim's family are to be satisfied that Mr Lewis' needs were properly taken care of.

He said: "It's clear that in this particular case, there are issues of failure in the processes that have been followed.

"I don't think it's appropriate for the [Independent Police Complaints Commission] to investigate the matter. It's not a policing matter. [That's] like asking the Met to investigate the Met.

"I think it's important for the Department of Health to investigate the matter."

Prior to his death, Mr Lewis visited Croydon University Hospital after noticing changes in his behaviour, alternating between "calm and agitated phases".

He was transferred to the psychiatric ward of Bethlem Royal Hospital, where his parents and best friend, Omari, left him for the night.

Later, Mr Lewis's mother received a call from Omari, informing her of an "incident" at the hospital.

After being told that her son had been taken to Croydon University Hospital, she found him on stabilisers and life-support.

It was later confirmed his death was caused by a brain stem injury which obstructed the flow of oxygen to his brain.

Mr Ughwujabo said the case suggests the NHS's action plan, "Delivering Race Equality (DRE) in Mental Health Care", which began in 2005 in a bid to improve the quality of care received by BME patients, had "not gone far enough."

"These incidents are still happening. We don't see evidence that race equality is actually embedded in mental health services provided by the NHS," he added.

"We know that black people are significantly more likely to be physically restrained or medicated, instead of being supported with other therapies."

A statement from Bethlem Royal Hospital in response to his comments read: "We are determined to continue working with the police to learn lessons."

A Department of Health spokesperson cited the IPCC investigation and said it would not be carrying out an inquiry of its own, when pressed by the Advertiser.

The IPCC, which previously ruled the officers involved has no case to answer over the incident, is also reviewing its probe. Sister Kemi Lewis, 34, who co-runs the Olaseni Lewis Campaign for Change and Justice alongside her parents, said her family's Christian faith has strengthened them since Olaseni's death. She said: "[We're] hopeful that we will get some sort of justice and we'll find out what the truth is. We want change and it needs to be from the top. We don't want other families to go through this. "This is not the kind of thing that you would wish on your worst enemy, at all." Mr Lewis' mother Ajibola previously told us how her son was a 'gentle giant' with a 'zest for life'. She recalled: "He had a real sense of adventure and fun. He was a lovely, friendly person and wasn't afraid of new things."

Call for full enquiry into death of Croydon man after hospital restraint


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