A police officer has been found guilty of gross misconduct for using excessive force after she repeatedly struck former Aston Villa player Dalian Atkinson with a baton, a disciplinary panel has found.
An independent disciplinary tribunal found PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, a West Mercia Police officer, acted wrongly when she struck Atkinson three times with her police issue baton, during an incident in the early hours of August 15, 2016 in which the ex-Villa player later died.
Atkinson died after being kicked at least twice in the head by PC Bettley-Smith’s more experienced colleague, PC Benjamin Monk, outside the victim’s father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.
After Atkinson was tasered to the ground and kicked in the head, PC Bettley Smith, 33, used her police-issue baton on him claiming she “perceived” he was trying to get up, although several civilian eyewitnesses recalled the 48-year-old “was not moving” and “was not resistant”.
While the panel found three initial strikes, before Monk’s kicks, were “lawful”, it found PC Bettley-Smith’s decision to then hit Atkinson another three times, after police back-up arrived, was “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful”.
Monk was jailed for eight years in 2021 after his conviction at Birmingham Crown Court for manslaughter.
PC Bettley-Smith was cleared of assaulting Atkinson after a trial, but the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force.
While the panel found three initial strikes – before Monk’s kicks – were “lawful”, it found Bettley-Smith’s decision to then hit Atkinson another three times, after police back-up arrived, were “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful”.
The panel is now set to hear evidence on whether the 33-year-old, who was a probationary officer at the time of the incident, should be allowed to keep her job or face a lesser sanction later on Friday.