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THE family of former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson welcomed the decision to charge a police constable with his murder in 2016.
Atkinson was 48 when he was fatally Tasered by police three years ago in the street where he grew up in Telford.
The West Mercia Police officer appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court today, along with a colleague who has been accused of assault causing actual bodily harm.
On the decision, solicitor Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose spoke on behalf of the family, saying: “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. They ask for their privacy to be respected and press for the criminal proceedings to progress without delay or obstruction.”
Both officers appeared before a deputy district judge and were not asked their name, address or date of birth.
Instead, they were referred to in court as Constables A and B.
Constable B indicated a not guilty plea to a charge of assault and she was granted bail to appear at Birmingham Crown Court later on today.
Officer A was remanded in custody to appear at the same hearing and he was not asked to indicate a plea.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement: “Following the death of Dalian Atkinson in Telford on 15 August 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised a charge of murder against a West Mercia police constable.
“This decision was made following a careful review of all the evidence presented to us by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) following an investigation.”
The officer charged with murder has also been charged 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.”
Inquest director Deborah Coles said: “The hope of many bereaved families, that police officers involved in a death are held to account to a criminal standard, is too often denied. As such, today’s decision from the Crown Prosecution Service — though long awaited — is welcome.
“Two years ago, an independent review of deaths in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC highlighted the negative impact of delays in investigations and prosecutions like this.
“Angiolini recommended that such cases be dealt with in the same time scales as a civilian homicide case. Clearly there is still much work to be done to meet those standards.
“We hope the next stages of this prosecution are pursued promptly and that the upmost scrutiny of the actions of these officers is ensured.
“The death of Dalian Atkinson following use of force and Taser by police raises concerns of significant public interest, not least at a time when we are seeing the increased arming of police with Tasers.”
No police officer involved in a death in custody or following police contact has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter since Inquest began monitoring in 1990.
The decision to charge both officers comes after the case was referred to the CPS to consider potential charges by the police watchdog the IOPC.
Three West Mercia Police officers were interviewed twice under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices following Atkinson’s death.
Relatives said Atkinson was suffering from a number of health issues and had a weak heart when a Taser was deployed in the early hours of Monday August 15 2016.
He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.
At the time, West Mercia Police said officers were called amid concerns “for the safety of an individual.”
The IOPC said its investigation gathered evidence which indicated that police contact with Atkinson involved the use of a Taser, followed by a period of restraint and other uses of force.
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