Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Judge rules two police officers charged over death of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson can be named

Pc Benjamin Monk and Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith can now be named. Credit: PA

A judge has lifted an anonymity order protecting the identities of two police constables charged after a three-year inquiry into the death of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson.

West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk was charged with the former Aston Villa striker's murder last week, while his colleague PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Both officers appeared in court last week without being asked to give their personal details, and were granted an interim Contempt of Court Act order banning publication of their names after it was argued there were risks to their safety.

Judge Simon Drew QC varied that order at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday to allow the officers to be named, after hearing legal submissions from media organisations opposing the anonymity orders.

Counsel acting for six media organisations argued that the anonymity orders were an "unjustified" and serious interference with common law open justice principles.

Mr Atkinson, 48, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, died after police used a Taser near his father's house during an incident in the Trench area of Telford in August 2016.

Dalian Atkinson with former Villa boss Ron Atkinson. Credit: PA

He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced last week that Pc Monk had been charged with murder and with unlawful act manslaughter as an alternative offence which, the CPS said, "is a lesser offence that a jury may consider if it first finds that the more serious charge has not been proved".

Pc Bettley-Smith has indicated that she will plead not guilty to the charge of assault.

The 29-year-old officer and her 41-year-old colleague are both from Shropshire, but a court order currently prevents the media from reporting their home addresses.

Speaking last week on behalf of the family of Mr Atkinson, solicitor Kate Maynard, of Hickman and Rose, said: "Dalian's family welcomes the decision to put the conduct of police officers before a jury but regrets that already more than three years have passed since Dalian died."

The decision to charge both officers comes after the case was referred to the CPS to consider potential charges by the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

A plea and trial preparation hearing in the case has been scheduled for December 9.