Deliberate exaggeration used to justify ‘attack’ on Dalian Atkinson, jury told

A police officer accused of murdering Dalian Atkinson and a fellow Pc charged with assault have painted an exaggerated picture of the ex-footballer’s behaviour, the prosecutor in their trial has claimed.

Crown counsel Alexandra Healy QC alleged that Pc Benjamin Monk and his West Mercia force colleague Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith had used their police training to overstate the former Premier League star’s conduct, and justify their own actions.

In her closing speech to a jury at Birmingham Crown Court, Ms Healy described aspects of the two officers’ accounts as a “story that goes against the evidence.”

Prosecutors claim Monk used unlawful and unreasonable force out of anger, prior to the death of former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star Atkinson in August 2016.

Monk, 43, has pleaded not guilty to alternative charges of murder and manslaughter, while 31-year-old Bettley-Smith denies assaulting Atkinson with a baton near his father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.

Addressing the jury from the witness box of a court reorganised due to Covid safety measures, Ms Healy alleged Monk had taken a decision to exaggerate the stature of Atkinson to justify a 33-second Taser discharge and at least two kicks to the 48-year-old’s forehead.

The court has heard Bettley-Smith estimated Atkinson – who was 5ft 11ins – to be “6ft 4ins or taller” following the incident – while Monk said in a police interview that the ex-sportsman was “massive” despite being an inch bigger than him.

Ms Healy told jurors on Thursday: “The Crown say this exaggeration of the description of his size is a deliberate exaggeration because these officers knew they needed to justify their actions.

“It’s clear Mr Atkinson was suffering some sort of acute mental health crisis and as a consequence was behaving quite out of character.

“Mr Atkinson was not armed, he never touched Pc Monk and never laid a finger on Pc Bettley-Smith.

“The Crown say these two officers have sought to take advantage of their training and knowledge as police officers to paint an exaggerated picture of Mr Atkinson’s behaviour in an effort to quite falsely persuade you that the force that they used was lawful.

“When you stop and step back, and you think, on any sensible view, it was not.

“Mr Monk’s unlawful assault caused the death and the Crown say he must have intended really serious injury.”

Counsel for Monk, Patrick Gibbs QC, is expected to address the jury later on Thursday.

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