11 May 2021

Before HM Coroner Jacqueline Devonish
Suffolk Coroner’s Court

19 April – 11 May 2021

Paul Reynolds (also known as Paul Gladwell) was subject to a chokehold and prolonged prone restraint by security officers at Pontins Holiday Park in Lowestoft, Suffolk before being arrested by police whilst unresponsive on 14 February 2017. He died at James Paget University Hospital two days later.

An inquest has today concluded that the actions of security officers, including neck and prone restraint, were “dangerous, deliberate and unlawful acts” which contributed to Paul’s death. They jury also found security officers did not sufficiently monitor Paul’s welfare or provide sufficient information to Suffolk police officers.

The jury also found failures in the response of Suffolk police, who continued to sit up, handcuff and arrest Paul and begin to transport him to custody, despite him appearing to be ‘asleep’ or unconscious. And that Paul would have lived had he not been restrained, and would have survived if an ambulance had been called to the holiday park and Paul had been placed in the recovery position.


Paul was a 38-year-old White man from Essex. His family describe him as a loving man and doting father, who put his family and others first. Paul had been at the holiday park with his partner Carrie Bennett. The inquest heard that, following an altercation between Pontins guests, security officers (licensed and trained by the Security Industry Authority - SIA) intervened. With no de-escalation, they restrained Paul. CCTV footage shows one security officer holding Paul by the neck in what investigators described as a chokehold, though he and other Pontins staff denied this.

Security officers eventually pinned Paul to the ground in prone position (facing down), with three security officers holding him down with his hands behind his back and legs folded for eleven minutes. This is despite SIA training which, as the jury commented, includes specific information on recognising the risks of positional asphyxia (positions which prevent proper breathing). SIA training does not recommend use of ground restraints and stresses the need to avoid the neck. Witnesses reported that Paul was heard apologising and asking to be let go a number of times, and one said he had ‘gone purple’.

Suffolk police officers were called to the holiday park following reports of a fight. When police arrived, the security officers report they believed Paul was ‘pretending to sleep’ and was making ‘snoring sounds’. Their communication with police did not reflect the restraint used. At that point Paul was unable to walk or stand on his own but was thought to be ‘faking it’.

Paul was then read his rights by police, sat up and handcuffed behind his back, before being taken to a police van to go to custody. However, later realising Paul was unwell, officers stopped the van, commenced CPR and called for an ambulance. He was taken to hospital where he died on 16 February 2017.

Inquest conclusions

The inquest found Paul’s death was caused by ‘complications arising from restraint of an intoxicated obese individual in a prone position, with compression to the neck and potential obstruction of the upper airways.’ The coroner left a narrative verdict to the jury. On the actions of Pontins staff the jury concluded:

  • Paul did not have any prior life-threatening medical conditions.
  • An early opportunity to diffuse the situation was missed by Pontins staff, Paul was not physically violent.
  • The use of restraint was “dangerous, excessive and inappropriate”.
  • Pontins staff failed to comply with SIA approved training on physical interventions.

The jury found the SIA badged security guard did restrain Paul in a neck hold, which should only be used when in fear for your life. He was then held in the prone position with his hands behind his back for approximately 11 minutes, in a hold which is used by the police and prison service only as a last resort in extreme circumstances. The jury found, “No attempt was made to reduce the force applied or move him to a less risky position”, and none of the restraint methods were appropriate.

Furthermore, the jury found the restraint by the neck was for a period of time sufficient to cause loss of consciousness, which was a dangerous, deliberate and unlawful act which contributed to Paul’s death. The prone restraint used was disproportionate to the situation, and Paul’s ingestion of alcohol, weight, and the use of leg holds and duration of the restraint were all factors increasing the risk of positional asphyxia. Therefore this was “dangerous, excessive use of force”.

Alongside this, the jury found Pontins staff did not sufficiently monitor Paul’s welfare during the restraint, only glancing at him briefly, and did not meet required standards of airway, breathing and circulation checks as taught in first aid. They noted, when a witness to the scene expressed concerns these were diminished by staff. And that the duty manager, as the senior member of staff, failed to oversee adequate welfare monitoring.

When Suffolk police arrived the jury found Pontins staff failed to pass on the details of neck restraint and did not give details of the ground restraint. Staff also “exaggerated the severity of the initial altercation to police”.

On the actions of Suffolk police, the jury found issues with the adequacy and oversight of training, including that a reduction in personal safety training from 12 to 4.25 hours per year may have had an impact on officers’ skills and knowledge. However, they found officers should have awareness that an unresponsive individual may have medical needs and an ambulance should be called. The jury accepted that “an individual may be feigning sleep, but this should not be assumed”.

The jury found Suffolk police officers failed to reassess their response according to the National Decision Making Model used by police, and to act on Paul’s unresponsiveness once he was sat up. They also failed to assess the risks to Paul’s health and there were missed opportunities to recognise he was unresponsive and potentially unconscious, and required medical attention.

Finally, the jury concluded that Paul would have lived if he had not been restrained by the neck and in prone position, or if staff or attending police had recognised Paul’s condition and placed him in recovery position.

The coroner is now making two reports to prevent future deaths, one to Suffolk Police and one to Pontins.

Carrie Bennett, Paul’s partner, said: After four years of anguish it is with huge relief and gratitude to this jury that the family and friends of Paul can finally see that the truth has come out, of how he met his death. Paul was our big, loveable, larger than life gentle giant. Paul was a loving man and a doting father

We are delighted that the Coroner is going to write to express the concerns we share with her to Pontins and Suffolk Police. We demand urgent action to prevent any further unnecessary tragedies like this and to stop any other families experiencing what we have been, and continue, to go through.

If the wholly unnecessary death of our lovely Paul can achieve anything by way of change, that would be at least some small consolation.”

Daniel Cooper of Imran Khan and Partners Solicitors, who represented Carrie, said: “The significantly critical conclusions of this jury are reflective of the cruel and frightening ordeal Paul suffered. He was failed by Pontins staff and Suffolk police officers. The chokehold and manner of the restraint, for 11 minutes, by Pontins security staff was dangerous and inhumane, and caused his death. 

We hope that today's conclusion gives some relief to Paul’s family, who have been waiting for answers for over four years. We now look to the relevant authorities to consider further action against those involved in Paul’s death.”

Selen Cavcav, Senior Caseworker at INQUEST, said: “The damning conclusions of the jury, highlighting the unlawful and dangerous restraint by security staff, must be a reminder to SIA officers that they are not above the law. It must also lead to changes to ensure these failures do not happen again.

When Suffolk police arrived, the situation could have been turned around, and yet officers relied on assumptions that Paul was feigning sleep, rather than respond to an unresponsive person as a medical emergency. We hope further rigorous investigations will now commence to ensure the individuals and systems which contributed to Paul’s death will be held to account.”


For further information or interview requests please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected], or the family solicitor Daniel Cooper [email protected] or 0207 404 3004.

Paul’s family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Daniel Cooper of Imran Khan Solicitors and Omran Belhadi of Nexus Chambers. The family are supported by INQUEST caseworker Selen Cavcav and Natasha Thompson.  

Other Interested persons represented are Suffolk Constabulary, the three police officers each separately represented, Pontins (Britannia – Jinky Jersey Ltd.)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct undertook an independent investigation into the contact between Paul Reynolds and Suffolk Police. Three police officers were served with gross misconduct notices. The matters were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider prosecutions in gross negligence manslaughter or under Health and Safety legislation. In 2020, the CPS declined to bring criminal charges, and a further Victim’s Right to Review, which sought the reversal of the CPS’s prosecutorial decision, was refused. Paul’s family are considering their response to this decision.