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THE police officer who tased black ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson and then kicked him twice in the head has been cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter in a landmark verdict.
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court took just under 19 hours to reach unanimous verdicts today on PC Benjamin Monk over the death of the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star in the early hours of August 15 2016.
Campaigners said that the verdict must become a watershed moment for police treatment of black people.
Legal charity Inquest said that no police officer had been found guilty of murder or manslaughter over a death in custody or following police contact in England and Wales since the 1980s.
Mr Monk told the court that he had run in fear after Mr Atkinson, who appeared to be having a mental health crisis, made death threats and smashed a glass door pane at his childhood home in Telford, Shropshire.
The 43-year-old officer claimed that the former Premier League striker was trying to get up when he aimed kicks at his shoulder, having run out of taser cartridges.
Records show that Mr Monk activated the weapon eight times for a total of more than 80 seconds — a deployment more than six times longer than is standard.
Mr Atkinson went into cardiac arrest after being taken from the scene in an ambulance and was pronounced dead in hospital at 2.45am.
Prosecutors said that Mr Monk had lied about the number of kicks he had delivered to the victim’s head. The officer also claimed to have no recollection of placing his foot on Atkinson’s head as colleagues arrived at the scene.
Although he conceded that he must have kicked the ex-footballer twice in the forehead because bootlace prints proved that he had, the officer maintained that he was acting in lawful self-defence.
Jurors were still deliberating on an assault charge relating to Mr Monk’s colleague and former girlfriend, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith.
In a statement following the verdict, Mr Atkinson’s family said: “We are hugely relieved that the whole country now knows the truth.
“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.”
The family condemned the fact that it had taken nearly five years to get the case to trial, contrasting it with the George Floyd case. US police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in April, less than a year after Mr Floyd’s murder.
“Our system for prosecuting police officers must work better to get rid of these unjustifiable delays,” they said. “No more excuses, no more delays.”
The Inquest charity’s director Deborah Coles branded the verdict historic but emphasised that it was not an isolated case.
“For decades, black men, particularly those in mental health crisis, have disproportionately died following use of force by police,” she said.
“True justice requires structural change across our society and its institutions to address racism.”
She warned that the use of tasers by police had risen significantly since Mr Atkinson’s death despite the well-known risks posed by the weapons.
Calling for a full review of the “enormous mission creep” of taser use in Britain, Amnesty International’s Oliver Feeley-Sprague said: “This distressing case must be a major wake-up call over how tasers are being used and abused by police.
“Appallingly you are eight times more likely to have a police taser used against you if you are black, while people suffering from mental health distress are also disproportionately likely to be tased.
“Dalian Atkinson’s tragic death must become a watershed moment for policing, where our police forces show that black lives do really matter to them.”
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