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Dalian Atkinson death: Police officer jailed for 8 years for manslaughter of former footballer

Written by on 30 June 2021

A police officer has been jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of former footballer Dalian Atkinson.

PC Benjamin Monk was sentenced after being convicted by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court last week.

Monk, of West Mercia Police, tasered Mr Atkinson for 33 seconds, more than six times longer than the normal cycle, before kicking him at least twice in the head during a confrontation in August 2016.

West Mercia Police constable Benjamin Monk was found guilty of the manslaughter of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson Image: Benjamin Monk was found guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson

Monk’s conviction is believed to be the first time in modern British criminal justice history that a UK police officer has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a black man, according to Inquest, which supports the bereaved following state-related deaths.

He is also believed to be the first police officer in 35 years to be convicted of unlawful killing over a death in custody or following police contact in England or Wales.

On Thursday, jurors were discharged from reaching a verdict on Monk’s partner Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who was accused of assaulting Mr Atkinson with a baton after he was tasered to the ground.

Jurors were discharged from reaching a verdict on an assault charge against Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith Image: Jurors were discharged from reaching a verdict on an assault charge against Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith

Jurors took more than 18 hours to reach unanimous verdicts on the manslaughter charge against Monk. They cleared him of Mr Atkinson’s murder.

The court heard the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town striker had been shouting in the street in the early hours of 15 August 2016 outside his father’s house in Telford, and was demanding to be let in.

Monk fired a Taser three times – including a single 33-second discharge – and left two bootlace prints on Mr Atkinson’s forehead, the trial was told.

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The Dalian Atkinson trial explained

The 43-year-old claimed to have acted in reasonable self-defence while “terrified” of Mr Atkinson, who had a heart condition, was undergoing dialysis treatment, and was smaller and lighter than the officer.

As well as the marks to both sides of Mr Atkinson’s forehead, a pathologist found 15 areas of “under-the-skin” bruising, including marks to his neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, flank, buttock, thigh, bicep, elbow and shin.

In a statement after the jail term was imposed on Monk, Dalian Atkinson’s family said: “PC Monk used horrendous violence against Dalian, who was in an extremely vulnerable position in a mental health crisis and needed help.

“This was a callous attack and a terrible abuse of a police officer’s position of trust.

“He then failed to give a full and honest account of what happened, including at his trial. We are pleased that all these factors have been reflected in the sentence.”

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Police officer ‘used horrendous force against Dalian’

Passing sentence on Monk, Judge Melbourne Inman QC told Monk: “You have let yourself and the force down.

“Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed and you used a degree of force in delivering two kicks to the head, which was excessive and which were a cause of Mr Atkinson’s death.

“The obvious aggravating factor is that you committed this offence while on duty as a police officer.”

The judge added: “The police play a central and important role in upholding the rule of law in our society.

“The sentence must reflect the importance of maintaining public confidence in our police.”

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The girlfriend of Dalian Atkinson, Karen Wright, told Sky News Dalian ‘was a really fun-loving guy’.

Prosecutors said Monk had exaggerated the threat posed by Mr Atkinson and lied about the events to justify excessive and unlawful force.

Prosecutors also said the officer lied about the number of kicks he had delivered to the former sportsman’s head by claiming he could remember only one aimed at his shoulder.

The trial was told Mr Atkinson, 48, went into cardiac arrest after being taken from the scene in an ambulance, and was pronounced dead in hospital at 2.45am – about an hour after he was tasered.

The court heard Monk had previously been found guilty of gross misconduct after failing to mention two cautions on his job application, but kept his job.

Aston Villa's Dalian Atkinson celebrates after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Aston Villa won the match 4-3. Image: Dalian Atkinson played for several clubs, including Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town

Continuing in their statement, Dalian Atkinson’s family said: “We were shocked to learn that PC Monk was not sacked in February 2011 for gross misconduct for his dishonesty; he should never have been working for the police in August 2016 and Dalian should not have died.

“We pay tribute to all the bereaved families of black men who have died at the hands of the police and whose fight for justice has not led to successful prosecutions.”

Assistant chief constable Rachel Jones said PC Monk failed to divulge one matter related to a caution for a theft as a juvenile and a second matter related to being drunk whilst a student at university.

She added: “The panel concluded with a finding relating to honesty, integrity and discreditable conduct.

“Their decision was that PC Monk could remain in his role but was subject to a final written warning for 18 months.

“Now the court proceedings have concluded, it enables West Mercia Police to undertake a fast-track misconduct hearing.”

Aston Villa manager Ron Atkinsonholds the Coca-Cola cup with goal scorer Dalian Atkinson following Villa's 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley. *** Best Quality Available*** Image: Dalian Atkinson

After the verdict, Monk was criticised by Mr Atkinson’s relatives who said they had been “sickened to hear” the officer try to minimise his use of a Taser and two kicks to his head.

The former footballer’s girlfriend, Karen Wright, condemned “brutality on the streets by people that we rely on”.

She described Mr Atkinson as “really fun loving” and “charismatic”, but “always a private man”.

Telling how they had been together on and off over 27 years, she said: “I loved him.

“He was just amazing, he was the man of my dreams. He was the man I could always rely on to make me feel good in life.”

Giving her reaction to the jailing of Monk, she said: “There is some relief, but nobody’s a winner in this.

“If we’ve got brutality on our streets by people that we rely on then the justice system needs to serve justice.”

Mr Atkinson, who won the League Cup with Aston Villa in 1994 and scored in the final, began his career at Ipswich Town, before moving to Sheffield Wednesday and Real Sociedad in Spain.

He then played for Villa between 1991 and 1995 before joining Fenerbahce in Turkey and later having a loan spell at Manchester City.

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