Police officer in court charged with murder of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson

A police constable has appeared in court charged with the murder of former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson.

The West Mercia Police officer appeared at Birmingham’s magistrates and Crown courts on Thursday alongside a colleague who has been accused of assault causing actual bodily harm.

Judge Simon Drew QC ruled that neither of the officers could be identified after lawyers raised fears for their safety and also granted them unconditional bail.

Mr Atkinson, 48, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, died after police used a Taser near his father’s house during an incident in the Trench area of Telford.

Relatives said Mr Atkinson was suffering 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.

The police officers were only referred to in both courts as Constables A and B and were not asked to give their age or addresses.

Constable “B” indicated that she would plead not guilty to a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm at the magistrates’ hearing.

Male officer “A” has also been charged with unlawful act manslaughter as an alternative offence which, the Crown Prosecution Service said, “is a lesser offence that a jury may consider if it first finds that the more serious charge has not been proved”.

Speaking on behalf of the family of Mr Atkinson, solicitor Kate Maynard, of Hickman and Rose, said: “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.”

Aston Villa v Huddersfield Town – Sky Bet Championship – Villa Park
A sign at Villa Park, Birmingham (PA)

The decision to charge both officers comes after the case was referred to the CPS to consider potential charges by the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Three West Mercia Police officers were interviewed twice under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices following Mr Atkinson’s death.

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 Mr Atkinson involved the use of a Taser, followed by a period of restraint and other uses of force.

Lawyers in the case urged both courts on Thursday to use common law powers to withhold the officers’ names from use in open court due to “right to life” concerns.

The Crown’s QC Paul Greaney invited the court to make an interim reporting restriction and review evidence of alleged risks faced by the officers at a hearing next week.

A plea and trial preparation hearing for December 9 and a further hearing will also be held next Wednesday to discuss reporting restrictions.

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