Sunday, 23 Jun 2024

PC 'used outrageous force' with baton on ex-footballer after he'd been Tasered

A PC used ‘outrageous’ and ‘unnecessary’ force when she repeatedly hit ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson with a baton after he had been Tasered to the ground, a disciplinary tribunal heard.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith – known as Ellie – was a probationary response officer when she attended the incident in Telford in the early hours of August 15, 2016, with colleague PC Benjamin Monk.

Former Aston Villa striker Mr Atkinson died after being kicked at least twice in the head by West Mercia Police officer Monk outside his father’s home in Shropshire.

Witnesses described Monk ‘stomping’ on his head, with one calling the blows ‘ferocious’ – while another police colleague saw the veteran constable with the toe of his boot ‘resting’ on Mr Atkinson’s scalp.

Monk, who had earlier Tasered the 48-year-old to the ground before delivering the kicks, was jailed for eight years in 2021 after he was convicted of manslaughter at Birmingham Crown Court.

University of Hull graduate Bettley-Smith was tried alongside him accused of assault after she delivered six blows with her police-issue baton – after the ex-Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday forward had collapsed to the ground.

Bettley-Smith, originally from Staffordshire, was acquitted following a retrial last year.

But the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force which, if proven, means she could face immediate dismissal from West Mercia Police.

The disciplinary panel, sitting in Telford on Thursday, heard how the pair responded to a 999 call, arriving to find Mr Atkinson outside the address, appearing ‘in the grip of a psychotic episode’.

They were told Bettley-Smith first hit Mr Atkinson three times with her baton, after Monk had kicked him.

But she then struck him a further three times, after having told the panel she was ‘looking over her right shoulder’ to see back-up arriving in the road.

‘The second set (of strikes) was clearly wholly unjustified – we say all of the strikes were unjustified,’ barrister Dijen Basu KC, bringing the case for the force’s professional standards, said.

‘But the second set were wholly unnecessary, wholly unreasonable, wholly unjustified and above all, to use normal language, it was outrageous to do that in the circumstances.

‘The man had just been kicked in the head, having been Tasered, and dropped to the floor, and with other officers arriving.’

Giving evidence on why she struck with her baton, Bettley-Smith told the panel during her evidence on Wednesday: ‘I just remember what I perceived to be a really aggressive, hostile, growling and just thought we had antagonised him even more by Tasering him.

‘I perceived him to be trying to propel himself to get up and proceeded to strike Mr Atkinson to the fleshy areas of his body to try and get him down and under control.’

The hearing was also previously told how at least three different witnesses – each residents watching from their windows – described how Mr Atkinson did not move again, once he was floored by the Taser.

One neighbour saw Mr Atkinson ‘lying on the ground, (and) was not moving’, another said ‘when he fell – he never moved’, and a third told how he ‘was not resistant’.

A joint medical report summary recorded Mr Atkinson probably hit his head on the road as he was grounded by a 33-second-long Taser burst, and this was ‘likely to have caused concussion, exacerbated by any kick or kicks to the head’ which would possibly ‘deepened any loss of consciousness’.

The summary concluded it was ‘possible… he was too exhausted to move once the Taser was turned off’ and that victims of the electrical current are often left ‘shocked and exhausted, and not in any rush to get to their feet’.

Patrick Gibbs, Bettley-Smith’s barrister, in his closing arguments, said: ‘To state the very obvious, this is a short incident, takes place in the dark, it was unexpected, violent.

‘Although we examine it in calm and peaceful circumstances, unless you have ever been threatened with violence and had to face it, it may be it is hard to appreciate fully what it’s like.

‘There’s a huge difference between reading about it, and being there.’

The panel adjourned until Friday when it is set to deliver its decision.

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