Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith to keep job after being found guilty of using 'excessive' force

  • Andy Bevan reports on the police officer allowed to keep her job despite being found guilty of gross misconduct.

West Mercia police officer Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith has been allowed to keep her job but has been issued a final written warning.

It comes after she was found guilty of gross misconduct for using "excessive force" when she repeatedly struck ex-Aston Villa player Dalian Atkinson with a baton, after he was Tasered to the ground.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith used "unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable" force by striking Mr Atkinson with her police baton during an incident in Telford, a disciplinary panel found.

Former Aston Villa striker Mr Atkinson died after being tasered and kicked at least twice in the head by West Mercia Police officer, Pc Benjamin Monk, outside the victim’s father’s home in Telford, Shropshire, six-and-a-half years ago.

Witnesses described Monk “stomping” on the victim’s head, with one calling the blows “ferocious” – while a police colleague, arriving at the scene, saw him with the toe of his boot “resting” on Mr Atkinson’s scalp.

Monk was jailed for eight years in 2021 after his conviction at Birmingham Crown Court for manslaughter.

Bettley-Smith, accused of assaulting Mr Atkinson, was tried alongside Monk after she delivered six blows from her police-issue baton. She was acquitted following a retrial in 2022.

But the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force.

The disciplinary panel, sitting in Telford, heard this week how Bettley-Smith – known as Ellie – and Monk responded to a 999 call, arriving to find Mr Atkinson outside his father’s address, appearing “in the grip of a psychotic episode”.

The hearing was told how 33-year-old Bettley-Smith first hit Mr Atkinson three times with her baton, after Monk had kicked him.

But she then struck Mr Atkinson a further three times, after having told the panel she was "looking over her right shoulder" to see back-up arriving in the road.

An independent disciplinary tribunal found on Friday that Bettley-Smith acted wrongly when she struck Mr Atkinson three times with her police-issue baton.

While the panel found three initial strikes, before Monk’s kicks, were “lawful”, it found Pc Bettley-Smith’s decision to then hit Mr Atkinson another three times, after police back-up arrived, was “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all the circumstances and therefore unlawful”.

Speaking outside the heard, Mr Atkinson's sister Elaine Atkinson said "At the end of the day I suppose they look out for their own it seems.

"I'm not saying all police are bad, it's not the case at all, it's just disappointment that his life to me, wasn't as important, what we've been through the last six years...at the end of the day, Dalian's gone."

In a statement the Deputy Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, Alex Murray said: "Whilst today (Friday 17 March) sees the end of formal proceedings we continue to extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Dalian Atkinson and everyone affected by his death."

"We know there is no end to the grief they have to live with, and our thoughts are with them."

Meanwhile, IOPC Regional Director, Derrick Campbell, said: “As part of our detailed investigation into the tragic events of 15 August 2016 we carefully examined the nature and level of force used by PC Bettley-Smith and whether it was in line with national policies and guidelines.

"Police officers do difficult jobs in sometimes difficult situations. Officers are given extraordinary powers to use force, and the way they use force must be reasonable and proportionate."

Mr Campbell added: “We analysed the sequence of baton strikes by PC Bettley-Smith to Mr Atkinson’s body after he had been Tasered. In our view, several of the officer’s repeated strikes at a time when Mr Atkinson was already lying on the ground were excessive. The police disciplinary panel has now decided the officer’s actions did breach professional standards for use of force and has imposed its sanction.

“I would again offer my sympathies to Dalian Atkinson’s family who have had to wait patiently for all the criminal and disciplinary proceedings to fully take their course.”