Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Suffolk Constabulary officers to face gross incompetency hearing following Paul Reynolds’ inquest
Two Suffolk Constabulary officers are to face a gross incompetency hearing following our investigation which looked at their actions prior to the death of 38-year-old man arrested during an incident at Pontins in Lowestoft.
As a result of our investigation we found the force’s management of first aid training for officers and staff should be improved.
Paul Reynolds, from Colchester, was restrained by security officials at the holiday resort on the night of 14 February, 2017, following an altercation with another guest.
Police were called and Mr Reynolds was arrested and placed into custody in a police van. While being transported officers became concerned for his wellbeing, stopped the van, commenced CPR and called for an ambulance. Mr Reynolds sadly died in hospital two days later.
An inquest jury at Suffolk Coroners’ Court on 11 May found that the restraint by Pontins’ staff to Mr Reynolds’ neck was a deliberate and unlawful act that contributed to his death.
It was further found that police officers missed the opportunity when they attended the resort to see that Mr Reynolds was unresponsive and needed medical intervention before being placed into the police vehicle.
The inquest concluded Mr Reynolds would have survived had he not been restrained and Pontins’ staff or attending police officers had recognised he had become unresponsive and an ambulance been called earlier.
The officers involved were criminally investigated and, in November 2018, we sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to consider if gross negligence manslaughter and charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act should be brought against two serving officers and one former officer.
In August 2019 the CPS decided not to initiate criminal proceedings. The family appealed the decision using the Victims’ Right To Review and, in March 2021, the CPS confirmed its original decision.
A parallel criminal investigation, carried out by the force, looked at the actions of security staff who initially restrained Mr Reynolds. No charges were brought against them.
Our final report, concluded in July 2018 and delayed by the parallel criminal investigation, was shared with the family and the force. Suffolk Constabulary agreed with our conclusion that two officers should face a gross incompetency hearing, and the force will arrange a hearing in due course.
We agreed they failed to properly assess the consciousness of Mr Reynolds and apply first aid principles.
A third officer has since resigned from the force and cannot be subject to a gross incompetency hearing.
During our investigation we identified learning and the force accepted our recommendations for improvement of its systems to ensure officers and staff have up to date first aid training to the level required for their role.
IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Reynolds’ family and all those affected by his death.
"We provided our investigation report to the Suffolk Constabulary and HM Coroner when our investigation concluded in 2018 and assisted the inquest by providing the evidence we gathered.
“Our role is to ensure that when there is a death following police contact, all the circumstances are thoroughly examined.
“Two officers will now face gross incompetency hearings, arranged by the force, to answer for the role they played in the incident.”
During our investigation, we examined the actions of the police officers involved and we attended the police post incident procedure. We took statements from witnesses at Pontins and gathered CCTV footage from the premises and mobile phone footage from a witness.
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