Dalian Atkinson’s family have compared the ex-footballer’s death to the murder of George Floyd, after a Pc became the first officer to be convicted of killing a member of the public in 35 years.
Pc Benjamin Monk was found guilty of manslaughter for Tasering Atkinson for 33 seconds and kicking him at least twice in the head on August 15, 2016.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how Monk, a 6ft response officer, exaggerated Atkinson’s threat to justify his use of excessive force despite the ex-Aston Villa star never laying a finger on him during the incident.
Atkinson’s death has drawn comparison to the Geoge Floyd case, in which a black man was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in an incident which sparked a worldwide anti-racism movement.
Following the jury’s verdict after a seven-week trial, the Atkinson family said: "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."
The family insisted Atkinson needed medical assistance in the early hours of August 15, but instead "received violence, and died with Pc Monk’s boot lace prints bruised onto his forehead".
Before Monk, no police officer had been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a death in police contact or custody in England and Wales in 35 years.
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. Like Monk, the officer was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years.
Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors, who represents the family, said: "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."
How was Dalian Atkinson killed?
Dalian Atkinson drove to his father’s house in Meadow Close, Telford, in the early hours of August 15, 2016. He wanted to speak to his father about treatment he was due to receive for his kidney disease.
They were due in hospital later that day, but The Telegraph can reveal the former footballer was seeking funding to fly to the US for unlicenced seaweed treatment by a doctor who had been struck off twice for malpractice.
Neighbours dialled 999 when they heard a commotion outside Ernest Atkinson’s home. Monk and his girlfriend at the time Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith responded to the call.
Atkinson was unarmed, and at no stage attempted to touch either officer. But Monk deemed it necessary to Taser the unarmed man who was referring to himself as "the Messiah".
The first two failed. But the third one was successful, and Monk held the trigger to discharge an electrical current for 33 seconds – more than six times the standard practice.
Whilst stunned on the ground outside his father’s home, Atkinson was kicked so hard in the head that it left bootlace imprints on his forehead. Other officers arrived while Monk had his foot resting on the ex-footballer’s head. Atkinson later died in hospital.
Monk argued that he acted as he did because he was going to die if he didn’t, having run for his life twice during the incident.
The prosecution argued instead that he was angry at being humiliated in front of his girlfriend after being so frightened of an unarmed man who was shorter than him.
The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, but cleared him of murder. Jurors are still deliberating the assault charge levelled at Pc Bettley-Smith for her use of a baton as Mr Atkinson lay in the middle of the road.
Atkinson family statement in full
"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.
Kenroy Atkinson, the brother of Dalian Atkinson, arriving at Birmingham Crown Court
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."
Deaths in custody: 103 since 2016
Since Dalian Atkinson died in 2016, there have been 103 deaths in or following police custody or contact, according to data collected by Inquest – a charity for families of state-related deaths. This excludes deaths involving police shootings, road traffic incidents or pursuit.
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 the trials collapsed or officers were acquitted by the jury.
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 he 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."