More work to do with black communities, say police after Dalian assault acquittal

Police say there is more work to do to ensure black communities feel 'respected', 'represented' and 'equally protected' by the region's police force.

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith leaves Birmingham Crown Court after she was acquitted on the charges of assaulting footballer Dalian Atkinson before his death in August 2016
Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith leaves Birmingham Crown Court after she was acquitted on the charges of assaulting footballer Dalian Atkinson before his death in August 2016

West Mercia Police's view comes as a jury at Birmingham Crown Court found Pc Ellen Bettley-Smith not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm following the death of former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson.

Pc Bettley-Smith was acquitted after jurors rejected prosecution claims that she “lashed out” in anger at Mr Atkinson before his death in Trench, Telford, in the early hours of August 15, 2016.

Last year, Pc Bettley-Smith and former Pc, Ben Monk, faced trial at Birmingham Crown Court where a jury found Ben Monk guilty of the manslaughter of Mr Atkinson; he was sentenced to eight years.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict in relation to the charges put to Pc Bettley-Smith and she faced a retrial at which she has been acquitted.

Now, West Mercia Police has said it will be liaising with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), to establish the next steps regarding any potential disciplinary proceedings.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones, said: “Last year a jury found the actions of Ben Monk led to the death of Dalian Atkinson.

“Today, a jury has found the actions of Ellen Bettley-Smith on the night Dalian died did not amount to assault and she has been found not guilty of the charges put to her.

"Dalian’s family and friends have suffered a devastating loss; this has been an extremely long and difficult journey and they have shown great dignity throughout.

"I again want to say to them that I am sincerely sorry and extend my apologies and heartfelt condolences.

“We’re very aware of the significant impact this case has had on trust and confidence, in particular within our black communities and our communities in Telford.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank those community members in Telford who have welcomed us as we endeavour to build our relationship with them.

"It is vital we listen and understand their issues and concerns, and while we know we have a long way to go, I know that personally, when I have met with them, I have felt welcomed and encouraged by the open, frank and important discussions we are able to have.

"I’m confident these discussions will continue.

“But, we know that is not enough and there is much more work for us to do, our Black communities must feel respected and represented; and equally protected by West Mercia Police.”

West Mercia's police and crime commissioner, John Campion, said: “My thoughts continue to be with Dalian Atkinson’s family and friends, I can’t imagine the pain they have gone through during what will no doubt have continued to be an incredibly challenging time.

“While the jury has determined the outcome of this trial, as PCC I recognise the ongoing impact this incident has had and continues to have on West Mercia’s communities, particularly in Telford.

"I reaffirm my commitment to ensuring relationships between communities and police are strengthened.”

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