PC Benjamin Monk jailed for eight years for killing footballer Dalian Atkinson
A police officer who unlawfully killed Dalian Atkinson by Tasering him to the ground and kicking him in the head has been jailed for eight years.
Police Constable Benjamin Monk was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter after jurors heard that he left two bootlace imprints on the former Premier League star’s forehead – following an “excessive” 33-second Taser deployment.
PC Monk’s six-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court was told he was “not honest” after the death of the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town striker, claiming to have aimed a single kick at the victim’s shoulder.
Mr Atkinson, who had smashed a window while suffering a mental health crisis, died in hospital around an hour after an ambulance was called to the scene near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, on August 15, 2016.
According to the charity Inquest, PC Monk is the first police officer in England and Wales to be found guilty of unlawful killing over a death in custody or following police contact since 1986.
PC Monk, who denied murder and manslaughter, claimed to have acted in reasonable self-defence while “terrified” of 48-year-old Mr Atkinson, who had a heart condition, was undergoing dialysis treatment, and was smaller and lighter than the officer.
But images of two separate areas of head injury accepted to match Monk’s bootlaces were uncovered by forensic examinations using polarised light, proving his account was false.
As well as the marks to both sides of Mr Atkinson’s forehead, a pathologist found 15 areas of “under-the-skin” bruising, including marks to his neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, flank, buttock, thigh, bicep, elbow and shin.
It emerged on Monday (June 28) that PC Monk had been found guilty of gross misconduct five years before he killed Mr Atkinson, after failing to mention two cautions on his application form to join the West Mercia force in 2001.
The court heard that he kept his job in February 2011 – a year after details of the cautions came to light – despite being found to have breached required standards for honesty and integrity.
Addressing the court on Monday, prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC said: “Mr Monk was cautioned for theft from a shop as an employee – he was employed at the time at Woolworths in 1997. There was a further caution in 1999 for being found drunk.”
The court was told that the warnings were not recorded on a computer system because of policies at the time for dealing with spent cautions.
Jailing the officer, the Recorder of Birmingham, Melbourne Inman QC, said: “You have let yourself and the force down. Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed and you used a degree of force in delivering two kicks to the head, which was excessive and which were a cause of Mr Atkinson’s death.
“The obvious aggravating factor is that you committed this offence while on duty as a police officer. The police play a central and important role in upholding the rule of law in our society. The sentence must reflect the importance of maintaining public confidence in our police.”
The head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime Division, Rosemary Ainslie, said it was clear from medical evidence that Dalian Atkinson would not have died when he did were it not for the use of excessive force.
“Monk forcefully kicked Mr Atkinson at least twice to the head. The force used was unreasonable because it was not necessary to restrain and control Mr Atkinson who was prone on the ground. The jury rejected any claim that Mr Atkinson’s death resulted from reasonable self-defence in the line of duty.
“Policing is a difficult job and officers deserve our respect, but they are not exempt from the laws they uphold.”
Derrick Campbell, Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) regional director, said: “PC Benjamin Monk has been held accountable for his actions that night, which tragically ended the life of Dalian Atkinson prematurely.”
He added: “Criminal charges were laid and ultimately the jury have made a decision about the actions of Pc Monk.
“There is no doubt police do difficult jobs in difficult circumstances.They are given extraordinary powers to use force, and the way they use force must be reasonable and proportionate. The jury’s decision highlights the importance of independent scrutiny when someone dies following police contact.”
Deborah Coles, director of the Inquest charity, which supports the bereaved following state-related deaths, said: “This is the first manslaughter conviction of a police officer for over three decades.
“Police cannot be above the law, but for too long they have acted with impunity following deaths. Dalian was subject to dehumanising and excessive police violence, whilst in need of protection. It is shameful that the family have had to wait over five years for this.
“Dalian’s death is not an isolated case, nor is this officer a ‘bad apple’. True justice requires structural change across our society to address racism and state violence, and better respond to mental ill health.”
Reacting to the verdict against Monk last week, West Mercia Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said she was “sincerely sorry” and offered her “deep condolences” to Mr Atkinson’s family, who had “demonstrated great dignity and strength throughout”.
She added that the force had “much to do” to “strengthen those bonds” with the communities it served.