Police officer cleared of assaulting ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson | UK news

A police officer has been cleared of assaulting the former footballer Dalian Atkinson during an incident in which he was killed after being Tasered and hit multiple times.

During the trial at Birmingham crown court, jurors were told Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 32, struck Atkinson, 48, with her baton three times as he lay on the ground after being Tasered for 33 seconds by her colleague and then partner, PC Benjamin Monk.

Bettley-Smith told the court she used her baton lawfully as a last resort as she tried to control Atkinson, who she said was “actively resisting and trying to get up”.

Monk, 43, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for eight years at a trial last year, during which Bettley-Smith was also tried for assault, but jurors failed to come to a verdict on her charge.

After a retrial, jurors on Wednesday delivered a verdict of not guilty.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it had recommended Bettley-Smith face a gross misconduct hearing over her use of force and it would be liaising with West Mercia police about any potential disciplinary proceedings.

The court heard how Atkinson, who played for Aston Villa, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday during his professional career, was suffering from a number of serious health issues at the time of his death, including end-stage kidney failure.

In the early hours of 15 August 2016, he drove to his family home in Telford, Shropshire, where he kicked the front door and shouted, waking neighbours, who called the police, the jury heard.

Paul Jarvis, the prosecutor, said Atkinson’s “mind was disturbed” and he “was not acting like himself”, most probably because of a buildup of toxins linked to renal failure, the court heard. He was due to start private medical treatment for his condition later that day, jurors were told.

Jarvis said that when Monk and Bettley-Smith arrived on the scene, Atkinson smashed a window at the house and walked towards the officers, saying repeatedly he was “the Messiah”.

Monk Tasered Atkinson and kicked him in the head as he lay on the ground, while shouting “fucking hit him!” to Bettley-Smith.

“It is likely that Bettley-Smith lashed out, perhaps in anger at the fact Atkinson had scared her so much, or perhaps because Monk told her to because he was himself angry with Atkinson,” Jarvis told the court.

Atkinson was pronounced dead in hospital about an hour later.

The prosecution argued that while the incident would have been a “frightening experience” for Bettley-Smith, who was a probationary officer at the time, her use of the baton was unlawful as it was not in self-defence.

The defence argued Atkinson still posed a risk to the officers as he was trying to get up and Bettley-Smith’s actions were “reasonable”.

Bettley-Smith told the trial: “I thought he was trying to get up to fight. In my opinion he was trying to get up on to his hands and knees. I was terrified to even get close to him because I thought I would come to serious harm if he was to get up.

“If I could have done anything to not use my baton that night, then I would have. There was no anger or losing my cool.”

Jurors deliberated for just over three hours before acquitting Bettley-Smith.

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