A policewoman accused of assaulting Dalian Atkinson hit him with a baton after being tasered because he still posed a threat in an “incomprehensibly difficult and frightening situation,” her lawyer told a court.
Richard Smith QC told jurors that CP Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was a “caring person who did not have violent bones in her body.”
Prosecutors allege Bettley-Smith and fellow West Mercia Police Pc Benjamin Monk used illegal and unreasonable force out of anger, before the deaths of the former Aston Villa striker, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town Atkinson in August 2016.
Monk, 43, has pleaded not guilty to other counts of murder and manslaughter as his then girlfriend, Bettley-Smith, 31, denies assaulting Atkinson causing bodily harm near from his father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.
In his closing remarks to the jury on Friday, Mr Smith urged jurors to consider whether it was nearly fair for the Crown to claim that Bettley-Smith was not scared at the scene.
Defending the University of Hull social work graduate, Smith urged jurors to think about how they would judge a member of their own family who finds themselves in “an extremely difficult situation, an incomprehensibly difficult and frightening situation. “.
Mr Smith told the Birmingham Crown Court jury: “At the heart of your deliberation is this: Did Ellie Bettley-Smith believe or would she believe that Dalian Atkinson was still a threat when she used her baton.
“And intertwined with this fundamental consideration, my lord (the judge) has already directed you.
“That even if his perception of the threat – the movement, the noises – was wrong, then in my words it doesn’t matter.
“If she really saw a threat, even if it’s not clear how it happened, then she wasn’t acting illegally, end of story.”
Crown claims Bettley-Smith and Monk deliberately exaggerated Mr Atkinson’s stature and demeanor in order to justify their actions after the male officer over-used a Taser, who kicked twice to the 48 year old man at the head.
Mr Smith added: “Suggesting she wasn’t as scared as she made her think, is that just from a distance?”
Pointing out that Bettley-Smith told a sergeant at the scene ‘I thought I was lost’, Mr Smith said: ‘They were seen running away. ‘they are afraid.
“She pressed her emergency button. Why did she do that? That little button is placed on the top of the radio to save lives.”
Mr Smith said of Atkinson: “He was a man who threatened to kill his own father.
“People who were hiding behind their bedroom windows… found it extraordinarily scary. Pause for a moment and ask yourself how Ellie Bettley-Smith would have felt.
“We suggest to you, members of the jury, that the evidence leads you to a conclusion she sincerely believed when Mr. Atkinson tragically fell to the ground on this third Taser, whom he still posed as a threat.”
Concluding his remarks, Mr Smith said he was convinced that if the jury dealt with the case “as you would one of your own”, their decision would not be difficult with regard to Bettley- Smith.
He called the matter terribly sad and tragic, adding: “When it’s so sad, you can sometimes understand why there is a thirst to empower someone, but we trust you in that regard.
“We spent hours in this … air-conditioned courtroom, quietly looking at documents, taking notes – reliving exactly what happened.
“She walked through, she looked, she assessed and she acted. That’s the context in which you have to judge her.
“She was an officer who was deeply inexperienced. She had never been in anything like this before.”
Mr Smith said of the Taser shot at Mr Atkinson: “Ellie Bettley-Smith hadn’t even seen one used during her very short time in the force.
“We contend that when you carefully examine the evidence, there is no sure basis on which you can conclude that she did not really believe Dalian Atkinson was still a threat.”
The trial judge will begin summarizing the evidence in the case on Monday.