West Mercia Police officer sentenced for manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson

Published: 29 Jun 2021

Benjamin Monk, a West Mercia Police officer, has been convicted of unlawful act manslaughter for the death of Dalian Atkinson and today (29 June) sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. His conviction and imprisonment follow an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

A jury had found PC Benjamin Monk guilty of killing Mr Atkinson on 15 August 2016, at the end of a seven-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

IOPC regional director, Derrick Campbell, said:

“Dalian Atkinson was a much-loved family member, friend and well-respected footballer. Nothing can restore the pain and loss those who loved and knew him will carry with them for life. Our thoughts remain with them at this time.

“PC Benjamin Monk has been held accountable for his actions that night, which tragically ended the life of Dalian Atkinson prematurely.

“This has been an extremely difficult and distressing case for everyone involved.

“The IOPC carried out a thorough and detailed independent investigation which covered complex uses of force and medical issues. We looked at the nature and level of force used, and whether it was in line with national policies and guidelines. We put forward the evidence we found to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“Criminal charges were laid and ultimately the jury have made a decision about the actions of PC Monk. We thank the jury for listening to the evidence carefully throughout this harrowing and lengthy trial.

“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. It is the first time in over thirty years in this country that a police officer has been convicted for manslaughter in the course of their duties.

“If someone dies in police custody, or their death may have been caused or contributed to by the police, there will be an investigation carried out or overseen by the IOPC. This provides the public with assurance that the full circumstances have been looked at impartially, that police conduct has been assessed, any sanctions considered and recommendations implemented to address any shortfalls.

“West Mercia Police will now progress the fast track misconduct process.

“The death of any person at the hands of police is a tragedy but for the Black community, recent events in the US and the lived experience of many people make this case particularly raw, and it is important we acknowledge that.

“We know that Black people are five times more likely to be subjected to the use of force and over eight times more likely to be Tasered.

“We know that every negative interaction they have with the police erodes their confidence that the police will protect and serve them. Police need to work hard to restore and maintain this confidence.

“Our independent scrutiny of police use of force will continue. This summer we will be publishing a review of over 100 Taser investigations and our interim report on our progress on a review of race discrimination. Both pieces of work will include recommendations to police forces nationally and look at issues of disproportionality and race.”

At the end of the IOPC investigation, we recommended West Mercia Police consider further training around how to respond when someone is being subjected to Taser, further training on whether it is safe for Taser and PAVA spray to both be used on a subject, and encouraged the force roll out use of body-worn video. West Mercia took actions in response to each of these recommendations which has helped improve the safety of officers, detainees and the public.

A jury was unable to reach a verdict and discharged on 24 June in respect of PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who was charged with actual bodily harm.

Background information on the IOPC’s investigation

Start of the investigation

West Mercia Police made a mandatory referral to the then Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on 15 August 2016, shortly after Mr Atkinson’s death. Officers had contact with Mr Atkinson outside a property in Meadow Close, Trench, Telford, at around 1.30 am after responding to a report of a disturbance. Mr Atkinson then became unwell and an ambulance took him to hospital where he was pronounced dead later that morning.

An independent investigation was declared, and IPCC investigators attended the scene (outside Mr Atkinson’s father’s address) to begin gathering available information and went to the police post-incident procedures to supervise the recovery of initial evidence. Investigators also carried out house-to-house enquiries, worked to identify relevant witnesses, and obtained police logs and radio transmissions.

It was established that none of the police officers were wearing body-worn video cameras. An IPCC family liaison manager was put in place to help inform and support Mr Atkinson’s family and partner and continued to do so throughout the investigation.

Investigators liaised with the Coroner and a post mortem examination was carried out. The cause of death was inconclusive and further toxicology tests were required.

Terms of reference for the IOPC investigation were drawn up which focused on whether police use of force, including Taser, on Mr Atkinson prior to his death was reasonable, proportionate, and necessary, and in accordance with relevant policies. The investigation also looked at how officers responded to the apparent deterioration in Mr Atkinson’s health, and how they interacted with his family on the night of the incident.

Initial data from the Taser deployed was downloaded and the device sent for further testing.

On 18 August 2016, the IPCC announced, after consideration of evidence gathered so far, that the two officers who initially attended and used force on Mr Atkinson were subject to criminal investigation and would be interviewed under criminal caution. In total 16 police officers in ten police vehicles went to the address that night.

During the investigation

Investigators undertook a range of enquiries during the course of the independent investigation, including witness interviews with:

  • three members of Mr Atkinson’s family, and his partner
  • 13 members of the public, largely residents of Meadow Close,
  • 15 other police officers who had some degree of involvement
  • two paramedics who attended.

Investigators consulted a range of experts, including:

  • the forensic pathologist who conducted the post mortem
  • two forensic scientists and a toxicology specialist
  • five medical experts including an ITU consultant and consultant in emergency medicine
  • a police chief firearms instructor on Taser training and use
  • a police trainer in use of force, in regard to the College of Policing Personal Safety Manual.

Investigators carried out subject interviews under caution twice with three police officers. Interviews took place in August and September 2016, and again in January 2017.

Investigators also:

  • established there was no CCTV of events that night
  • carried out over 600 lines of enquiry or investigative actions
  • reviewed over 2,000 documents
  • carried out early liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as is appropriate in a criminal investigation of this nature
  • examined national and local use of force and Taser policies, including the College of Policing authorised professional practice (APP)
  • compiled a comprehensive investigation report
  • kept Mr Atkinson’s family, West Mercia Police and the Coroner informed during the investigation’s progress.

End of investigation

In October 2018, the IOPC’s decision maker for the investigation, regional director Derrick Campbell, decided to refer a file of evidence to the CPS to consider potential charges against two of the police officers who had initially been involved in detaining Mr Atkinson. The actions of a third officer who was subject to investigation were not referred to the CPS.

At the request of the CPS, an expert report from a further pathologist was commissioned to assist them with their consideration. The CPS also suggested a number of further enquiries which the IOPC completed.

CPS decision

On 7 November 2019, the CPS announced they had authorised a charge of murder against a West Mercia Police constable PC Benjamin Monk, and an alternative charge of unlawful act manslaughter. A second police constable, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH). The decision was made following a careful review of all the evidence presented by the IOPC.

  • West Mercia Police
  • Death and serious injury