Police officer who hit ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson found guilty of gross misconduct but keeps job

 Pc Mary Bettley-Smith
Pc Mary Bettley-Smith

A police constable has kept her job despite being found guilty of gross misconduct for using “excessive force” when she repeatedly hit ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson with her baton after he was Tasered.

A disciplinary found that Mary Bettley-Smith, a West Mercia Police officer, acted wrongly when she struck Mr Atkinson during an incident in the early hours of August 15 2016. Mr Atkinson went into cardiac arrest and died later that day.

Mr Atkinson’s sister, Elaine, said after the decision “I suppose they look out for their own” adding she did not think Ms Bettley-Smith should still be protecting the public.

Former Aston Villa striker Mr Atkinson died after being kicked at least twice in the head by Ms Bettley-Smith's more experienced colleague, Pc Benjamin Monk, outside the victim's father's home in Telford, Shropshire, six-and-a-half years ago.

"At the end of the day, Dalian's gone and it's down to those officers", Ms Atkinson said.

The panel could have sacked 33-year-old Ms Bettley-Smith, a University of Hull graduate originally from Staffordshire, but instead handed her a final written warning.

After Mr Atkinson was Tasered to the ground and kicked in the head by Monk, Ms Bettley-Smith used her baton on him, claiming she "perceived" he was trying to get up, although several civilian witnesses recalled the 48-year-old "was not moving" and "was not resistant".

Dalian Atkinson of Aston Villa - Anton Want/Getty
Dalian Atkinson of Aston Villa - Anton Want/Getty

Monk was jailed for eight years in 2021 after his conviction at Birmingham Crown Court for manslaughter.

Ms Bettley-Smith - known as Ellie - was cleared of assaulting Mr 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 concluded Ms Bettley-Smith's decision to then hit Mr Atkinson another three times, after police back-up arrived, were "unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful".

Giving the misconduct tribunal's findings, legally-qualified 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 (Ben) Monk, at which point, Pc Bettley-Smith then applied a second set of three baton strikes.

"The second set of three baton strikes, in light of the kicks.

"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."

Speaking after the decision, Mr Atkinson’s older sister said: "I am disappointed really with the outcome because I did feel that it was serious enough (for her to be sacked).”

Asked what the last six-and-a-half years had been like for the family, Ms Atkinson: "Our family has been shattered by it, absolutely shattered.

"I'm the eldest, he's the youngest, we just think it shouldn't be like that - it shouldn't have happened."