PC Benjamin Monk jailed for ex-footballer’s death

A police officer who unlawfully killed Dalian Atkinson by tasering him to the ground and kicking him in the head has been jailed for eight years.

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, discharged his Taser three times and kicked him twice in the head, leaving bootlace prints on his forehead, his trial heard.

The former Aston Villa striker died after the 2016 stand-off outside his father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.

Jurors cleared Monk of an alternative charge of murder on 23 June.

He will serve two-thirds of his sentence before being entitled to release on licence.

Speaking after the conviction, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was the first time in over 30 years that a British police officer had been convicted of manslaughter in the course of their duties.

Although there have been 10 murder or manslaughter charges brought against police officers since 1990, those accused have all either been acquitted or the case has collapsed.

Monk is also believed to be the first officer to face a murder charge after a person had been tasered by police.

Passing sentence, Judge Melbourne Inman QC told Monk it “should have been obvious to you” the force used was excessive.

He said kicking and tasering Mr Atkinson while he lay on the street was “beyond reasonable” and told him: “You have let yourself and the force down”.

“Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed,” Judge Inman said.

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

Mr Atkinson’s family reacted to the sentence by saying Monk had abused his position of trust in the “callous attack”.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, they called for change in the way Black people, particularly men, are treated by police and the criminal justice system.

“As his fellow footballers take the knee, we hope that they will honour the memory of Dalian,” they said.

IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said the police would need to “work hard to restore and maintain” the confidence of Black communities following the sentence.

During the six-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, jurors heard Monk and his co-accused colleague, PC Mary-Ellen Bettley-Smith had been called to Meadow Close at about 01:30 BST on 15 August.

Mr Atkinson was in the midst of a mental breakdown and had been shouting outside his father’s house claiming to be the Messiah.

Judge Inman said he had “suddenly lost touch with reality” and was “unrecognisable to those who knew him at the scene”.

When the officers, who were in a relationship at the time, arrived, they claimed to be “terrified” of the 48-year-old sportsman, who had smashed a pane of glass in his father’s door.

Monk deployed his Taser three times. Twice he was unsuccessful but on the third occasion, jurors found he acted unlawfully, using excessive force by overriding the trigger to Taser Mr Atkinson for 33 seconds.

While Mr Atkinson lay on the ground, the officer kicked him twice to the head with enough force to leave imprints of his bootlaces, while PC Bettley-Smith struck him with her baton.

Mr Atkinson, who had a number of underlying health conditions including renal failure, died in hospital just over an hour after the confrontation.

In interviews, Monk would downplay the force he used while exaggerating the risk posed by the footballer, who had also played for Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday.

However, “the jury rejected any claim that Mr Atkinson’s death resulted from reasonable self-defence in the line of duty,” the head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s special crime division, Rosemary Ainslie, said.

“Policing is a difficult job and officers deserve our respect, but they are not exempt from the laws they uphold.”

The West Mercia officer was also found to have a history of dishonesty. In court on Monday it was revealed he had been found guilty of gross misconduct in a police hearing in 2011 for failing to disclose two prior cautions for theft and drunkenness when he applied to join the force.

The force said another misconduct process would be fast-tracked for Monk, who has been suspended since he was charged in November 2019.

Assistant Chief Constable, Rachel Jones, said she “does not underestimate the significant damage this case has done to our relationships with communities” and is committed to “repairing trust”.

However Deborah Coles, from charity Inquest, which supports bereaved families after state-related deaths, said structural change was needed.

“Dalian’s death is not an isolated case, nor is this officer a ‘bad apple’,” she said.

“True justice requires structural change across our society to address racism and state violence, and better respond to mental ill health.”

The jury was unable to reach a verdict about 31-year-old PC Bettley-Smith, who was charged with assaulting Mr Atkinson with a baton while he lay incapacitated.

Prosecutors are yet to announce whether they will seek a retrial.

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