Dalian Atkinson: police officer in court accused of assaulting ex-Aston Villa footballer - trial latest

Pc Mary Ellen Battley-Smith denies the charge, and claims she acted lawfully to protect herself and others

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A police officer accused of assaulting retired footballer Dalian Atkinson who died after he was tasered and kicked by her colleague, likely “lashed out”, a court has been told.

Jurors heard Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, of West Mercia Police, struck the 48-year-old several times with a baton “perhaps in anger” and perhaps because she was told to by Pc Benjamin Monk.

Birmingham Crown Court was told Monk was convicted of manslaughter last year after kicking Mr Atkinson twice, leaving impressions of his laces on his victim’s forehead.

England B international Mr Atkinson, who retired in 2001 after playing for clubs including Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Spanish side Real Sociedad, died in hospital around an hour after being tasered.

Jurors retrying Bettley-Smith were told a previous jury could not reach a decision in respect of a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The 32-year-old probationary officer, known as Ellie, denies the charge, claiming she acted lawfully to protect herself and others.

Dalian Atkinson was killed in August 2016.Dalian Atkinson was killed in August 2016.
Dalian Atkinson was killed in August 2016.

What happened to Dalian Atkinson?

Opening the case against Bettley-Smith, prosecutor Paul Jarvis said Mr Atkinson, who had health problems including kidney failure, was acting out of character and had smashed a window at his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016.

Mr Jarvis told the court: “Dalian Atkinson was more than just a sportsman.

“He was a loving, and much-loved, son, brother, father, partner and friend to those who knew him best.

“He died in the early hours of the morning on Monday, 15 August 2016, after an encounter with police officers outside of his father’s home address.

“Those officers were Pc Benjamin Monk and Pc Ellie Bettley-Smith.”

What has the prosecution said?

The court was told Monk and Bettley-Smith were in a relationship at the time of the death.

Mr Jarvis said it was obvious to witnesses that the balance of Mr Atkinson’s mind was disturbed at the time of the incident, and he “was not on any view acting like himself”.

He told the jury on Tuesday: “It is entirely understandable, we accept, that at this moment in time, Benjamin Monk and Ellie Bettley-Smith would have been afraid for their safety.

“Dalian Atkinson was being aggressive towards them, and they were entitled, we accept, to take steps to subdue him.”

But the Crown alleges that Bettley-Smith acted unlawfully after Monk discharged a third taser cartridge, causing Mr Atkinson to fall to the ground.

Mr Jarvis told jurors: “It is not in dispute that at some point during this incident Ellie Bettley-Smith took out her police baton, she extended it and she struck Dalian Atkinson several times to his body with it.

“You will want to contrast her version with the accounts given by the residents and what they saw of Dalian’s movements.

“In light of their evidence, do you think that having collapsed to the ground following the third discharge of the taser, Dalian was in the process of trying to get back to his feet when Ellie Bettley-Smith hit him?

“Or do you think she has exaggerated his movements in order to portray him as a threat when the truth was that he had already been subdued?

“The prosecution accept that this must have been a frightening experience for a probationary officer in the position of Ellie Bettley-Smith.

“But once Dalian Atkinson was no longer a threat to the officers, the justification for that use of force against him evaporated, we say.

“It is likely that Ellie Bettley-Smith lashed out, perhaps in anger at the fact Dalian Atkinson had scared her so much, or perhaps because Benjamin Monk told her to because he was himself angry.

“But either way, when she hit him she was not, we say, trying to defend either herself or Benjamin Monk or trying to arrest Dalian Atkinson.

“Those blows, we say, were delivered unlawfully by her.”

What did the defence say?

Following the Crown’s opening speech, defence KC Richard Smith made a brief address to the jury panel.

Mr Atkinson was a good man, Mr Smith said, but had been unrecognisable to those who knew him on the night of his death.

The defence barrister said of Monk and Bettley-Smith: “They were entitled, indeed had a duty in their uniform, to try and restrain him and protect themselves and others.”

Monk had “made his own decision” to kick Mr Atkinson, Mr Smith said.

He said of Bettley-Smith: “She genuinely believed that when Mr Atkinson was on the ground he still posed a threat to her and potentially all others around him – because her perception was that he was still not incapacitated, and moving.

“Her case is she perceived that movement and there was the continuing threat to her and others.

“The use of her baton was necessary and reasonable to protect and to continue to restrain.”

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.

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