In May, Central Bylines reported on the trial of West Mercian police officers, Benjamin Monk and Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith for the murder, manslaughter and actual bodily harm of professional footballer Dalian Atkinson in 2016. Atkinson, 48 years old at the time of his death, had played for several clubs, most notably Aston Villa with whom he won the Football League Cup in 1994.
Trial at Birmingham crown court
The trial heard details of how PC Monk had tasered Atkinson three times, the third time for more than thirty seconds, continuing even after Atkinson had collapsed.
The officer also delivered at least two kicks to Atkinson’s forehead with enough force to imprint the pattern of the laces from the top of his boot in two separate places. PC Bettley-Smith was alleged to have struck Atkinson with a baton while he was unresponsive on the ground.
Whilst the former footballer was known to have underlying health problems, the expert witnesses instructed by the prosecution agree that without the taser deployment and the kicks to his head, he would not have died that night.
Eight years for manslaughter
Following the six week trial, the jury found PC Monk guilty of manslaughter, but cleared him of the more serious charge of murder – the first time in 35 years that a British police officer has been convicted of manslaughter for a killing while on duty.
Yesterday, at Birmingham crown court, Judge Melbourne Inman QC sentenced Monk to eight years imprisonment. The announcement was met with some dismay in the media, the conviction for manslaughter rather than murder and the length of the sentence both provoking considerable comment.
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They got off lightly?
Shortly after the sentence was announced, however, it was revealed that the case has been referred to the unduly lenient sentence scheme. The Law Officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider it. It is worth noting that the prosecution had recommended a minimum sentence of twelve years.
The case against Bettley-Smith ended with a hung jury a day after Monk’s conviction.
The jury was discharged following its failure to reach a verdict on allegations that she assaulted Atkinson with a baton after he had been felled by Monk.