Express & Star

Dalian Atkinson's family claim not sacking Pc puts service in 'deeper disrepute'

Dalian Atkinson's family have described the decision not to sack a police officer guilty of misconduct in relation to his death as bringing the "police service into deeper disrepute".

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith at a previous court hearing

West Mercia Police constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 33, was found to have used excessive force when she repeatedly struck the former Aston Villa star with a baton after he was Tasered in Telford more than six years ago.

A disciplinary panel last week spared her the sack, instead issuing her with a final written warning for her actions during an incident on August 15, 2016. Mr Atkinson, 48, died after being kicked at least twice in the head by Ms Bettley-Smith’s more experienced colleague, Pc Benjamin Monk, outside the victim’s father’s home in Meadow Close, Trench.

In a statement responding to the panel's decision his family said: "We welcome the panel’s decision that the assault on Dalian as he was dying constitutes gross misconduct.

"However, as a probationary officer, having demonstrated such violence and poor judgement, it is very concerning that she was not dismissed immediately this afternoon and that she will be put back on the streets as a serving police officer. This brings the police service into deeper disrepute.”

Director of charity INQUEST Deborah Coles said: “The police’s legal defence in this case relied on racist tropes that Dalian was violent and dangerous. We know from the evidence that he was in fact a man in mental health crisis who needed care and protection. Instead, he was dehumanised and faced police violence.

"Police accountability after deaths is extremely rare. The fact that this officer will be keeping her job reinforces the reality of this farcical system.

"Time and again we see police lawyers, leaders and the Police Federation defend the indefensible - too often more concerned with reputational management than the pursuit of justice and change.

"This incident cannot be seen in isolation. There is a longstanding pattern of deaths following the use of police force, which are at the sharpest end of institutional racism in police culture and practice.

"True accountability requires ending the delay, denial and defensiveness around the reality of violent policing and action to create the structural change required.”

In June 2021, Monk was jailed for eight years after being found guilty of manslaughter at Birmingham Crown Court, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Bettley-Smith for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Following a trial in September last year she was acquitted of assaulting Mr Atkinson.

INQUEST, which monitors state agency-related deaths, said between 2011 and 2021, 52 black people died in or following police custody and contact.

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