Police officer who hit ex-footballer after he was tasered faces sack

Police officer who struck ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson repeatedly with a baton after being tasered faces being fired after disciplinary panel found she used excessive force

  • Dalian Atkinson was killed in 2016 after officers were called to his father’s house
  • Mr Atkinson appeared to be in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time
  • PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was found guilty of gross misconduct on Friday

A police constable is facing the sack after being found guilty of gross misconduct for using excessive force when she repeatedly hit an ex-footballer with her baton after he was Tasered to the ground. 

An independent tribunal found on Friday that Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, a West Mercia Police officer, acted wrongly when she struck Dalian Atkinson three times with her police-issue baton during an incident in the early hours of August 15, 2016. 

Former Aston Villa striker Mr Atkinson died after being kicked at least twice in the head by Ms Bettley-Smith’s more experienced colleague, PC Benjamin Monk, outside his father’s home in Telford, Shropshire. Monk also Tasered the footballer for 33 seconds.

Witnesses described Monk’s actions as ‘ferocious’, and he was subsequently convicted of Manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2021.

Ms Bettley-Smith, who was described as ‘panicky’ after the incident, was a probationary officer at the time and now faces being fired from the force.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, a West Mercia Police Officer, faces the sack after being found guilty of an excessive use of force

Dalian Atkinson was killed by PC Benjamin Monk during the incident in August 2016

The disciplinary panel, sitting in Telford today, heard how PC Bettley-Smith and PC Monk were responding to a 999 call when they arrived to find Mr Atkinson outside his father’s address, appearing ‘in the grip of a psychotic episode’. 

Mr Atkinson was Tasered to the ground by Monk and three blows from Ms Bettley-Smith were found to have been lawful.

But Monk then kicked the former footballer twice in the head, before the probationary officer hit him three more times with her baton. 

She claimed that he ‘perceived’ Mr Atkinson was trying to get up, although several civilian witnesses recalled the 48-year-old ‘was not moving’ and ‘was not resistant’. 

Monk was jailed for eight years in 2021 after his conviction at Birmingham Crown Court for manslaughter. 

Ms Bettley-Smith – known as Ellie – was cleared of assaulting Mr Atkinson after a trial, but the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force. 

Witnesses to the attack described the PC as unsure and ‘reluctant’ – but using force nonetheless.

Hospital cashier Julia Shilton recalled watching PC Monk’s kicks from her landing window, describing them as ‘quite ferocious, and the sort you might see in a fight when people are really going for each other’.

She added: ‘I saw the female officer whacking the top of Dalian’s legs. It seemed a reaction led by actions of the male officer. It seemed as though she was following his lead.’

Ms Shilton also described how PC Bettley-Smith was delivering the strikes as ‘like a jerking motion – she seemed reluctant to do it – a draw-back and pause each time; three or four times.’

PC Benjamin Monk tasered Mr Atkinson before kicking him twice in the head – he was jailed for manslaughter in 2021

While the panel found three initial strikes – before Monk’s kicks – were ‘lawful’, it found Bettley-Smith’s decision to then hit Mr Atkinson another three times, after police back-up arrived, were ‘unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful’. 

Giving the misconduct tribunal’s findings, legally-qualified chairman Karimulla Khan said: ‘In those circumstances, the panel finds the first three baton strikes were lawful.

‘There was then the intervening kick, by PC (Ben) Monk, at which point, PC Bettley-Smith then applied a second set of three baton strikes.

‘The second set of three baton strikes, in light of the kicks.

‘And the panel finds that the second set of three baton strikes were unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and were therefore unlawful.’

Following the panel’s findings, Dijen Basu KC, putting forward the case against PC Bettley-Smith, said: ‘The conduct is indeed serious but the circumstances were complex, fast-moving, and the panel have looked at the context of the decisions and actions of the officer.

‘She was plainly on the periphery of the actions taken by Pc Monk, which were entirely different, several stages of magnitude different.’

He added: ‘The panel may wish to consider a final written warning (as its sanction) as well as dismissal.

‘Of course, in the end, it is a matter for the panel.’

The panel is now set to hear evidence on whether the 33-year-old, who was a probationary officer at the time of the incident, should be allowed to keep her job or face a lesser sanction later on Friday. 

This is a breaking news story and is being updated. 

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