Police constable charged with murdering ex-Villa player Dalian Atkinson
A police constable has appeared in court charged with murdering former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson, who died after being Tasered near his father's home.
The West Mercia Police officer appeared in court in Birmingham on Thursday along with a colleague who has been accused of assault causing actual bodily harm.
Both officers appeared before a deputy district judge at the city's magistrates court in the morning before then appearing at crown court in the afternoon.
Judge Simon Drew QC granted both officers unconditional bail and set a plea and trial preparation hearing for December 9.
A further hearing will also be held next Wednesday to discuss reporting restrictions in the case which prevent the media from reporting the officers' names and addresses.
Officer A, a man, was not asked to indicate a plea regarding the murder charge.
Constable B, a woman, indicated a not guilty plea to a charge of assault.
Mr Atkinson died aged 48 after an incident outside his father’s house, in Trench, Telford, on August 15, 2016.
Jenny Hopkins from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Following the death of Dalian Atkinson in Telford on August 15, 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised a charge of murder against a West Mercia police constable.
"A second police constable, from the same force, has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH). Mr Atkinson’s family has been informed.
“This decision was made following a careful review of all the evidence presented to us by the Independent Office for Police Conduct following an investigation.
“Criminal proceedings against the two police officers are now active and they have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
Neither officer was identified by the CPS for what it said were legal reasons.
The officer charged with murder has also been charged with unlawful act manslaughter as an alternative offence which, the CPS said, "is a lesser offence that a jury may consider if it first finds that the more serious charge has not been proved".
Speaking on behalf of the family of Mr Atkinson, solicitor Kate Maynard, of Hickman and Rose, said: "Dalian's family welcomes the decision to put the conduct of police officers before a jury but regrets that already more than three years have passed since Dalian died.
"They ask for their privacy to be respected and press for the criminal proceedings to progress without delay or obstruction."
The decision to charge both officers comes after the case was referred to the CPS to consider potential charges by the police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Three West Mercia Police officers were interviewed twice under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices following Mr Atkinson's death.
The retired 48-year-old, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, died after police used a Taser during an incident in the Trench area of Telford.
Relatives said Mr Atkinson was suffering a number of health issues and had a weak heart when a Taser was deployed in the early hours of early hours of Monday 15 August 2016.
He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.
At the time, West Mercia Police said officers were called amid concerns "for the safety of an individual".
The IOPC said its investigation gathered evidence which indicated that police contact with Mr Atkinson involved the use of a Taser, followed by a period of restraint and other uses of force.
In a statement issued by Mr Atkinson's siblings after his death, they said: "Dalian grew to be a kind, caring and protective brother, with a lively personality: he was funny and cheeky.
"He always brought life and energy to family gatherings - when Dalian turned up, we knew there would be laughter and banter."
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