Birmingham Crown Court
Opened 26 April 2021
Concluded 23 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. In a historic trial, PC Benjamin Monk has been found guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson.

Until today, no police officer has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a death in police contact or custody in England and Wales in 35 years.  

UPDATE 24 June 2021: 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. The Crown will now consider whether to order a retrial for this charge. Sentencing for the manslaughter conviction of PC Monk will take place on Monday 28 June

Following the jury’s verdict, Dalian’s family made the following statement: “Dalian Atkinson is much missed by all his family and friends and the footballing communities of the clubs he played for in his long and successful career as a professional footballer, especially Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa.

The past five years have been an ordeal for Dalian’s family.

We knew years ago about the terrible injuries inflicted by PC Monk on Dalian, but have been unable to talk about them due to the criminal process. We are hugely relieved that the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.

While it has been hard for us not to be able to talk about the details of Dalian’s death, it has been even harder to sit through this trial and to hear PC Monk try to justify the force he used.

On the night he died, Dalian was vulnerable and unwell and needed medical attention. He instead received violence, and died with PC Monk’s boot lace prints bruised onto his forehead. 

We have been sickened to hear PC Monk try to minimise the force he used on Dalian and exaggerate the threat he posed. Fortunately, the jury has seen through the lies and the pretence. We would like to thank the jury members for all their hard work and attention.

The fact that this case has taken nearly five years to get to trial is completely unacceptable, especially when you consider that PC Monk’s identity was known to the prosecuting authorities from Day One.

By contrast, the murderer of George Floyd was convicted less than a year after his death. Our system for prosecuting police officers must work better in future to get rid of these unjustifiable delays.  No more excuses – no more delays.

Dalian’s footballing talent led him to achieve great things in his life. Our sincere hope is that now that the truth about his death is known, and justice has been done, we can start to remember him not for the manner in which he died, but for the way in which he lived.”

Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors, who represents the family, said: “This is the first manslaughter conviction in the modern era of a police officer using excessive force in the course of duty. This is a landmark conviction. I hope it is a watershed moment for accountability of police officers in this country.


Police officers involved in fatalities have all too rarely faced criminal proceedings; even internal police disciplinary proceedings remain unusual, despite over 25 years of independent investigations by the IOPC and its predecessor.


It is striking that even before the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the police officer who murdered him had already been convicted.


By contrast, PC Monk was able to blame the five year delay on his vague and variable evidence; and that delay caused Dalian’s family significant anguish and uncertainty. They were forced to wait patiently for almost half a decade to hear the details of what happened on 15 August 2016.


While the wheels of justice have, in this case, turned far too slowly, today’s guilty verdict must mark a turning point for the IOPC and CPS. Until now, they have failed to give the public confidence that police officers who break the law by using excessive force on duty will be held fully accountable. That has to change: the CPS need to place more trust in juries and end the past reluctance to prosecute police officers, including after critical findings at public inquiries, inquests or civil proceedings.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: The prosecution of police officers is a rarity in the UK. Today’s guilty verdict reflects the evidence of excessive police violence. It is historic and sends a strong message that police are not above the law.

The jury have seen through the racial stereotyping that equates Black men with dangerousness. As footballers take the knee, we hope they remember the life of Dalian Atkinson and others who have died at the hands of the police in the UK.

However, the prosecution of a few police officers does not address the racism and discrimination embedded in policing. Since Dalian’s death the roll out and use of Taser by police has risen significantly, despite the well-known risks these weapons pose to people with mental or physical ill health.

Dalian’s death is not an isolated case but part of a systemic problem. For decades, Black men, particularly those in mental health crisis, have disproportionately died following use of force by police. True justice requires structural change across our society and its institutions to address racism, and respond better to mental ill health and 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. 


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.”