PC who hit ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson guilty of gross misconduct

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PC Mary Ellen Bettley-SmithPA Media

A PC who repeatedly struck ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson on the night he was killed by her colleague has been found guilty of gross misconduct.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith hit the former Aston Villa striker six times with her baton as he lay on the ground in 2016.

She was acquitted of actual bodily harm at trial but the police watchdog called for a gross misconduct hearing.

After a four-day case, the panel decided the West Mercia Police officer used excessive force.

Mr Atkinson died after being tasered and kicked in the head outside his father’s house in Telford, Shropshire.

PC Bettley-Smith’s colleague and partner, PC Benjamin Monk, was jailed for manslaughter in 2021.

Dalian Atkinson

Getty Images

The panel previously heard how the officers, who were in a relationship at the time, had responded to a 999 call and arrived to find Mr Atkinson appearing “in the grip of a psychotic episode”.

PC Bettley-Smith initially struck Mr Atkinson three times, which the panel agreed were lawful.

But it found a further three strikes 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, should be allowed to keep her job or face a lesser sanction later on Friday.

Mr Atkinson died after being tasered and kicked at least twice in the head by Monk, who was a more experienced officer.

The panel was told PC Bettley-Smith used her baton on the former player, claiming she “perceived” he was trying to get up.

However, several civilian witnesses recalled the 48-year-old “was not moving” and “was not resistant”.

PC Benjamin Monk

West Mercia Police

The independent tribunal decided she had acted wrongly when she struck him again after police back-up arrived.

Earlier in the week the panel had been told Mr Atkinson had been “beset by health problems” before his death, including end-stage kidney failure needing dialysis and significant heart problems.

The ex-footballer, who started his career at Ipswich Town before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa and Fenerbahçe in the 1990s, died about an hour after the assault.


Monk’s criminal trial heard police had been called to Meadow Close at about 01:30 BST on 15 August 2016, where Mr Atkinson was in the midst of a mental breakdown and had been claiming to be the Messiah.

Judge Inman said he had “suddenly lost touch with reality” and was “unrecognisable” to those who knew him.

When the officers arrived they claimed to be “terrified” of the sportsman.

Police were called to Meadow Close

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Prosecutor Dijen Basu KC earlier told the disciplinary panel PC Bettley-Smith’s second set of strikes were “wholly unreasonable, wholly unjustified and above all, to use normal language, it was outrageous to do that in the circumstances”.

The officer, who denied using excessive force, said in evidence: “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.”

But three different residents watching from their windows described how Mr Atkinson lay still on the ground after being tasered, with one adding, “when he fell – he never moved”.

Delivering the panel’s findings, chairman Karimulla Khan said: “In those circumstances, the panel finds the first three baton strikes were lawful.

“There was then the intervening kick, by PC Monk, at which point, PC Bettley-Smith then applied a second set of three baton strikes.

“And the panel finds that the second set of three baton strikes were unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and were therefore unlawful.”

Dalian Atkinson

Getty Images

Following the decision, Mr Basu said PC Bettley-Smith’s conduct had been serious but the circumstances had also been complex and fast-moving, and the panel had looked at her actions in context.

“She was plainly on the periphery of the actions taken by PC Monk, which were entirely different, several stages of magnitude different.

“The panel may wish to consider a final written warning [as its sanction] as well as dismissal.”

Patrick Gibbs KC, acting for PC Bettley-Smith, said the past six and a half years had been “significant punishment in itself”.

He said her conduct until that moment had “been admirable, certainly unimpeachable” and that her unlawful baton strikes had occurred in the space of a 27-second period, following which she had again presented “admirable conduct”.

“This involves a miscalculation in the heat of moment in the degree of force which still now needed to be used,” he added.

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