29 June 2021

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.

PC Benjamin Monk, who was found guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson at Birmingham Crown Court last week, has today (29 June) been 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. A decision is awaited on whether there will be a retrial on this matter.

This comes one day after a deeply critical report from the United Nations on the deaths of Black people in police custody and contact, and the state response from countries including the UK.

Dalian’s family said: “PC Monk used horrendous violence against Dalian, who was in an extremely vulnerable position in mental health crisis and needed help. This was a callous attack and a terrible abuse of a police officer’s position of trust. He then failed to give a full and honest account of what happened, including at his trial. We are pleased that all these factors have been reflected in the sentence.

We were shocked to learn that PC Monk was not sacked in February 2011 for gross misconduct for his dishonesty; he should never have been working for the police in August 2016 and Dalian should not have died.

We pay tribute to all the bereaved families of black men who have died at the hands of the police and whose fight for justice has not led to successful prosecutions.

It shouldn’t take the death of a famous footballer for the criminal justice system to work properly and we hope that more families can secure justice in future regardless of whether the deceased is a high profile person.

As his fellow footballers take the knee, we hope that they will honour the memory of Dalian.

Whilst this case has taken far too long, we thank the IOPC and CPS for ultimately bringing PC Monk to justice.”

The family’s solicitor, Kate Maynard, of Hickman & Rose, said: “The jury’s guilty verdict in relation to PC Monk must mark a turning point for both the IOPC and CPS.

This verdict shows that where there is the evidence to do so, the CPS should place more trust in juries and robustly prosecute police officers for homicide offences, including after critical findings at public inquiries, inquests or civil proceedings.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, 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.

The imprisonment of one police officer does not stop systemic racism and police violence. 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.

For decades Black men, and those in mental health crisis, have disproportionately died following use of force by police. Since Dalian’s death the roll out and use of Taser by police has risen significantly, despite the well-known risks these weapons pose.

As footballers take the knee, we see the reality of structural and institutional racism and the appalling consequences it has in the UK. We hope they remember the life of Dalian Atkinson and others who have died as the result of state violence.”


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.

The charges in this case were announced by the Crown Prosecution Service in November 2019. The trial took place over seven weeks at Birmingham Crown Court, The trial opened 26 April, the verdict was handed down on 23 June, and sentencing took place on 29 June 2021.


The court heard that Dalian was experiencing a serious mental health crisis that night, displaying delusional and paranoid behaviour. Police were called to attend ‘a disturbance’ at Dalian’s father’s home in Telford, Shropshire. PC Monk and PC Bettley-Smith arrived just after 1.30am. Neither officer was touched by Atkinson during the six minute incident which led to his death.

Dalian answered the door to the officers. PC Monk said he warned him prior to firing his Taser three times, but Dalian remained delusional and non-compliant. Monk said the first two Taser discharges appeared to have little effect. On the third discharge the officer engaged the weapon for 33 seconds, six times longer than the standard default setting. At this point Dalian collapsed.

Whilst he was on the ground, PC Monk kicked Dalian at least twice in the head with so much force it left an imprint of his laces on his forehead and blood on the officer’s boots. Witnesses told the court that Dalian had appeared motionless since the collapse.

Monk argued they had been terrified by Dalian, while the prosecution argued that once Dalian was on the ground he had acted not out of self-defence but of anger. Medical evidence from three prosecution experts showed the officer’s use of force made a significant contribution to Dalian’s death.

When other officers arrived on the scene, they saw that PC Monk was ‘resting’ his foot on Dalian’s head. Expert witnesses told the court that neither pinning the head with the foot or kicking are techniques taught to officers in training.

Having become unresponsive but still breathing, Dalian was taken to hospital at 2.04am. He was put into the ambulance with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Soon after, he went into respiratory arrest. Once in hospital at 2.10am efforts were made to revive Dalian but were unsuccessful. He was pronounced death at 2.45am on 15 August 2016.



*INQUEST casework and monitoring shows that since 2016, the year of Dalian’s death, there have been 103 deaths in or following police custody or contact. This excludes deaths involving police shootings, road traffic incidents or pursuit.

Of these at least 20 were men with Black or Mixed ethnic backgrounds. We do not yet have detailed information on ethnicity in every case so this is an estimate.

In 38 of these cases restraint was used prior to the death. This does not necessarily mean the restraint or use of force cause or directly contributed to the death, only that the person was restrained by police prior to their death.

This data is based on our casework and monitoring to date so may be incomplete. The Independent Office for Police Conduct publishes official data annually. The latest available data goes up to 2019.



No police officer has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a death in police contact or custody in England and Wales since before INQUEST began recording in 1990.

Murder or manslaughter charges have been brought against police officers in ten other cases since 1990. In all cases trials have collapsed or officers have been acquitted by the jury.

Both successful and unsuccessful prosecutions have also been brought following deaths in police contact under Health and Safety legislation.

Other criminal charges against officers, such as perjury and misconduct in public office, have been brought following deaths in custody, but most have led to acquittals or not guilty verdicts. One exception is that in March 2007, a Derbyshire police officer who failed to check on a man in police custody, despite signing forms stating that he had, was found guilty of misconduct in public office.

The last successful prosecution of a police officer for manslaughter took place in 1986, following the death of Henry Foley, a 67 year old man who died from injuries inflicted by police officers whilst in custody. The officer was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years. More information 



Taser rollout in England and Wales

Home Office Police use of force data 2019/20 (up to March) shows:

  • Overall Black people five times more likely to have force used on them by police (see Guardian analysis).
  • Black people are seven times more likely to have Taser used against them than white people (see Guardian analysis).
  • In 15% of incidents involving Taser in the period, the police officer involved perceived the person had a mental health issue.

Since Dalian’s death, the use of Taser has consistently risen, according to official Home Office data:

  • 2017/18: 18,000 incidents
  • 2018-19: 24,000 incidents
  • 2019-20: 33,000 incidents

(Home Office data: See sources)

The Independent review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody (2017) by Dame Elish Angiolini QC cited research on the dangers of Taser which concluded that Tasers have potential to cause severe injuries. Angiolini commented “It is wholly unacceptable if CEDs [Conducted Energy Devices, otherwise known as Tasers] are only safe for use against those who are in good physical health.”