Six police officers investigated for gross misconduct over the death of a 23-year-old man will have their disciplinary hearing held in secret – despite a jury ruling that excessive force contributed to his death.
Olaseni Lewis died after being restrained on a hospital mental health ward in September 2010.
Press and members of the public will be barred from proceedings on how the officers will be dealt with, which began today, after police used a loophole to block access.
The Lewis family is furious. Although they will be able to attend, his parents believe the public should be fully informed of the details.
Aji and Conrad Lewis told the Guardian it was a “matter of utter shame for the IPCC, serving only to erode our confidence in that organization or, indeed, in the police.”
The family’s ordeal began over the August bank holiday weekend, seven years ago, when Lewis’ mental health deteriorated.
His parents took him to the Bethlem Royal Hospital in South London.
Lewis was subjected to two periods of restraint by officers during that time, lasting longer than 30 minutes.
He died three days later.
In May, an inquest jury found excessive force had contributed to his death.
The jury said the use of restraint for two prolonged periods was “unnecessary and unreasonable.”
In a statement over their son – who was known to loved ones as Seni – his parents expressed their anguish.
“When Seni became ill, we turned to the state in our desperation: we took him to hospital which we thought was the best place for him,” they said.
“We shall always bear the cross of knowing that, instead of the help and care he needed, Seni met with his death.”
Despite then-Home Secretary Theresa May introducing new regulations in 2015, under which misconduct hearings are to be held in public, there are some exceptions.
The IPCC insisted proceedings for the officers involved today, fell into this area.
“There is a legal presumption that this hearing should be held in private, as it predates new laws requiring the vast majority of gross misconduct proceedings to be held in public,” the IPCC said.
IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts made the decision in August.
All six Metropolitan(Met) Police officers could be dismissed if the accusation of gross misconduct is upheld at the end of the hearing.
Proceedings involving Simon Smith, Michael Aldridge, Stephen Boyle, Laura Curran, James Smith and Ian Simpson are expected to last a month.