Dalian Atkinson, 48, died on 15 August 2016, following use of force by officers of West Mercia police. This included multiple and prolonged use of Taser, baton strikes, and kicks to the head.

Today, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who was one of two officers involved in his death, has been found guilty of gross misconduct in a police disciplinary hearing. 

The disciplinary panel found the officer used excessive force. They had the option of dismissing her from the force, but instead gave her a final written warning. She will continue to work as a police officer. 

The family of Dalian Atkinson said:

“Dalian Atkinson’s family welcomes the panel’s decision that the assault on Dalian as he was dying constitutes gross misconduct. However, as a probationary officer, having demonstrated such violence and poor judgement, it is very concerning that she was not dismissed immediately this afternoon and that she will be put back on the streets as a serving police officer. This brings the police service into deeper disrepute.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

 “The police’s legal defence in this case relied on racist tropes that Dalian was violent and dangerous. We know from the evidence that he was in fact a man in mental health crisis who needed care and protection. Instead, he was dehumanised and faced police violence.

Police accountability after deaths is extremely rare. The fact that this officer will be keeping her job reinforces the reality of this farcical system.  

Time and again we see police lawyers, leaders and the Police Federation defend the indefensible. Too often more concerned with reputational management than the pursuit of justice and change.

This incident cannot be seen in isolation. There is a longstanding pattern of deaths following the use of police force, which are at the sharpest end of institutional racism in police culture and practice.

True accountability requires ending the delay, denial and defensiveness around the reality of violent policing and action to create the structural change required.”

In September 2022, Bettley-Smith was acquitted of charges of assault against Dalian Atkinson at Birmingham Crown Court. 

In June 2021, PC Benjamin Monk, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson at Birmingham Crown Court and sentenced to eight years in prison. A majority verdict on the charge against another officer involved, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, under section 47 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 (Actual Bodily Harm), could not be reached by the jury.



For further information please contact Lucy McKay on [email protected] or 020 7263 1111

The family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members, Kate Maynard and Helen Stone of Hickman and Rose solicitors, and Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers and Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers. They are working with INQUEST Head of Casework, Anita Sharma.

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