30 October 2017

Today, BIHR joined many others with Young Minds to raise our concerns about the use of restraint on young people in mental health care services. Restraint can risk young people's most basic human rights, rights to liberty and to not be treated inhumanely or in a degrading way (both protected by the Human Rights Act). These rights are vital when young people are placed in the vulnerable position of being in inpatient mental health care. This is why BIHR has joined others in publishing a letter in today's Times Newspaper, supporting a new Bill which would lead to greater accountability for young people. You can read the letter behind The Times paywall here, and the accompanying article in the newspaper here (a full copy of the letter also appears below). 

We are calling on MPs to support the second reading of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill on Friday (3rd Nov). YoungMinds have created an e-action, as part of the Always campaign with the NAS. As the campaign's Always Charter makes clear, young people should: 

Visit our human rights and healthcare hub here for more information about BIHR's work on mental health and how using human rights is not only the law, but also helps deliver more dignified services which place people at the heart of decisions and empowers them to be treated with respect.

Letter in The Times


In 2010, 23-year-old Seni Lewis died after being restrained face-down by 11 police officers in a mental health hospital. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.

Evidence shows that face-down restraint, which can be extremely dangerous especially when applied for a prolonged period, was used over 12, 000 times  in mental health units in 2015/16, despite Department of Health guidelines aimed at phasing this out.     

There is a significant variation in the use of restrictive practices on mental health patients, and concerns have been raised about unconscious bias. Statistically, young black males are most at risk of death from inappropriate force, while people on the autism spectrum or with a learning disability are at increased risk of being unnecessarily and frequently restrained.

The proposed Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, referred to as “Seni’s Law”, would enable mental health professionals and emergency staff to manage risk in a manner that protects patients and themselves, and promotes dignity and respect. 

The Bill would lead to the systematic recording of any use of force, improved accountability, and training for staff on de-escalation techniques. Importantly, the Bill would establish that any death in mental health services caused by restraint would trigger an independent investigation, with free legal advice for the family affected.

We urge all MPs to support this Bill next week.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned:

Sarah Brennan OBE – Chief Executive, YoungMinds
Sanchita Hosali - Acting Director, British Institute for Human Rights (BIHR)
Paul Farmer CBE – Chief Executive, Mind
Mark Winstanley – Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive – Centre for Mental Health
Mark Lever - Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
Jan Tregelles - Chief Executive, Mencap
Professor Wendy Burn FRCPsych – President, Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych)
Janet Davies – General Secretary and Chief Executive, Royal College of Nursing (RCN)
Tajek B Hassan - President, The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM)
Deborah Coles – Director, INQUEST
Katharine Sacks-Jones – Director, Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk
Frances Crook OBE – Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
Marjorie Wallace CBE – Chief Executive, SANE
Vivien Cooper – Chief Executive, Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF)
Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive - Turning Point
Prof Dame Sue Bailey DBE FRCPsych – Chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC)
Poppy Jaman – Chief Executive, Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA)
Hamish Elvidge BEM – Chair, The Matthew Elvidge Trust
Martin Pollecoff – Chair, UK Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP)
Dr Hadyn Williams – Chief Executive, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
Martin Pratt – Chief Executive, The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH)
Stephen Scott CBE FRCPsych FMedSci – Chair of ACAMH, and Professor of Child Health and Behaviour, Kings College London
Nicola Gale CPsychol, FBPsS – President, British Psychological Society (BPS)
Dr Omar Khan – Director, The Runnymede Trust
Rick Muir – Director, The Police Foundation
Sarah Yiannoullou – Managing Director, National Survivor User Network (NSUN)
Professor Luke Clements - Cerebra Professor of Law & Social Justice, University of Leeds
Eric Baskind LLB (Hons), LLM, MCIArb, FHEA, FRSA – Consultant and Expert Witness in Violence Reduction and the Safer Use of Force, Liverpool John Moores Universit