Footballers taking the knee for racial justice should honour the memory of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson, his family has said, after a police officer was jailed for eight years for his manslaughter, having kicked him in the head while he was on the ground.
The call from Atkinson’s family came hours before England players were expected to again take the knee before their Euro 2020 game against Germany.
The Atkinson family watched on Tuesday as PC Benjamin Monk was sentenced for manslaughter, after a jury found his use of a stun gun for 33 seconds and at least two kicks to the former football star’s head had killed him.
Monk, 43, was sentenced on Tuesday to eight years in jail by Judge Melbourne Inman QC at Birmingham crown court.
Afterwards, Atkinson’s family linked the killing of their loved one to the long -running struggles of black British communities. In a statement, the family said: “We pay tribute to all the bereaved families of black men who have died at the hands of the police and whose fight for justice has not led to successful prosecutions.
“It shouldn’t take the death of a famous footballer for the criminal justice system to work properly and we hope that more families can secure justice in future regardless of whether the deceased is a high profile person.
“As his fellow footballers take the knee, we hope that they will honour the memory of Dalian.”
Monk, who serves with the West Mercia force, is the first British police officer in more than three decades to be convicted of manslaughter during the course of his duties.
His conviction came after he set upon Atkinson on 15 August 2016. Police were called to a disturbance with Atkinson acting in an erratic and out of character fashion having gone to Meadow Close, Telford, where his father lived.
The Atkinson family said in their statement after sentencing: “PC Monk used horrendous violence against Dalian, who was in an extremely vulnerable position in mental health crisis and needed help.
“This was a callous attack and a terrible abuse of a police officer’s position of trust. He then failed to give a full and honest account of what happened, including at his trial. We are pleased that all these factors have been reflected in the sentence.”
The Atkinson family also condemned the decision to let Monk stay in the police when in 2011 he was found to have committed gross misconduct for failing to fully declare past criminal cautions he received before joining the police: “We were shocked to learn that PC Monk was not sacked in February 2011 for gross misconduct for his dishonesty; he should never have been working for the police in August 2016 and Dalian should not have died.”
The late-night incident involving police officers and Atkinson, 48, lasted six minutes.
The judge said he accepted that the officer was dealing with a difficult situation that evening with Atkinson in a “form of psychotic state” and being threatening.
Inman said: “For five minutes you were dealing with a very unpredictable and no doubt frightening situation where you were confronted by a man who had to be restrained and controlled because of the level of threat he posed … It was thereafter, when Mr Atkinson was on the floor that you used force that went beyond that which was reasonable in the circumstances.”
Atkinson had shouted he was the “Messiah”, smashed glass in a door and the judge said Monk had tried to calm him down.
The judge accepted Monk’s genuine remorse and that the excessive violence he used was out of character, with senior colleagues praising his work as an officer.
Atkinson was kicked with such force that his blood was found in the laces of Monk’s police-issue boots, and imprints from them found on the forehead of the former Aston Villa striker.
One witness said when Atkinson was kicked while on the ground he head snapped back.
Monk was seen with his boot rested on Atkinson’s head. Atkinson by then was barely conscious and would be pronounced dead within 70 minutes.
The judge said Monk’s time in prison would be more difficult because he was a police officer, but his job also was an aggravating factor.
Inman said: “The public entrust powers to the police which they expect to be used for the common good of society.
“The sentence must reflect the importance of maintaining public confidence in our police. You have let yourself and the force down. Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed and you used a degree of force in delivering two kicks to the head which was excessive and which were a cause of Mr Atkinson’s death.”
After his conviction, Monk is expected to face a fasttrack disciplinary hearing and be sacked from the police, which he joined in 2002.
The judge told Monk he would be eligible for release after serving two-thirds of his sentence.