A police training expert has told the trial of an officer charged with the murder of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson that he would “never” tell colleagues to use a foot to put someone’s head on the ground to keep.
Ian Mills, who has worked for the police for 28 years, also told Birmingham Crown Court on Friday that he had never trained officers to kick people in the head.
“You can’t train it, it’s no use… most people can give kicks, low in the ground,” he said.
Prosecutors allege that West Mercia police officer Benjamin Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, used unlawful and unreasonable force during a final 33-second firing of his taser, and then kicked former Aston Villa star Atkinson twice in the head.
Atkinson, who was subsequently handcuffed near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, on the early morning of 15 August 2016, later died in hospital.
Monk, who previously described his kicks as untargeted and “instinctual,” told a jury he was “terrified” that he and his colleague and then lover Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith would “die” during the encounter.
Benjamin Monk and Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith leave Birmingham Crown Court earlier in case
Dalian Atkinson was hit by three Taser cartridges deployed by PC Monk
He has claimed that an ‘unpredictable and erratic’ Mr Atkinson, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, said he was ‘the Messiah’ and threatened to take the officers ‘to the gates of hell’.
Monk’s kicks were delivered with enough force that the marks from the officer’s right boot remained on the former sportsman’s forehead, the judges were told.
Monk, 43, who testified in his defense earlier, also claimed he could not remember putting his boot on Mr Atkinson’s head after tasering the man.
That was despite being seen with his foot ‘resting’ on the 48-year-old by two other police officers who arrived at the scene, the court heard.
Mr Mills, an expert on police use of force and Taser training, who provided expert evidence for the defense, was asked by Monk’s attorney, Patrick Gibbs, QC, if he ever had any officers trained ‘to kick people in the head’?
He replied, ‘No. The reasons are actually twofold.
Kenroy Atkinson, brother of former footballer Dalian Atkinson, arrives at Birmingham Crown Court in May
“If they’re both standing, it would take a lot of practice, training, and martial arts to kick a standing person while standing.
“If the subject is on the floor, almost anyone can kick any part of the subject — but it wouldn’t be easy to train or safely train to kick a role player in the head in the training environment.
“You can’t train it. It serves no purpose (to train it).
“Most people can give low kicks — they just can’t, high.”
Mr. Gibbs then asked, “Is the head or part of the body excluded as a target area?”
Mr Mills replied, “No body part is excluded, there are only medical implications regarding each part of the body and the tactics used on each part of the body.”
When asked who should justify the tactics used to control a person, be it arresting or detaining a person, Mr Mills said the duty would fall on the officer who makes the decisions. .
He said, “It must be the officer, given the circumstances in which they saw it.”
Mills completed an expert report on aspects of taser use and the use of force, citing the accepted doctrine of police training.
Gibbs read to the jury the following passage, quoted in Mr. Mills’ report, which stated: ‘The nature of police work is so diverse that it will never be possible to document guidelines to cover every contingency.
“For this reason, it always happens that individual officers resort to techniques and tactics not described in this manual.
“In such circumstances, agents’ actions are not necessarily unlawful, provided they have acted reasonably and within the law.
‘The person concerned must be prepared to account for his decisions and to show that he is justified in what he has done.’
Mills, a former member of the College of Policing’s 12-member Taser National Practitioners group, was also asked about a download of the X26 model Taser that Monk had used on Atkinson.
Jurors have heard of Tasers delivering an electrical charge to a person only when they are still loaded with a replaceable cartridge.
In the night, Monk used all three cartridges he had with him after claiming the first two ‘Taser strikes’ were ‘ineffective’.
Jurors were previously told that data extracted from the device showed that the third time the taser was used, causing Mr Atkinson to fall to the ground, the taser discharged an electrical current for 33 seconds — more than six times longer than the default activation period of five seconds.
Mr. Gibbs asked Mr. Mills ‘can you tell from the download (device data) if a cartridge was installed at the time?’
Mr Mills told the jury, “No.”
As for the claim that Monk had seen his foot rest on Mr. Atkinson’s head by his own colleagues, Mr. Gibbs asked the veteran trainer, “Have you ever seen that officer training is something they should be doing?”
He replied, “Securing the head, yes—but not with the foot.”
Mr Mills said an officer could use his ‘hands’ or ‘shin’ instead, ‘to prevent injury and contain someone – if someone injures themselves, bangs their head on the ground, during extractions, it is it is customary to hold the head to the floor.’
Mr. Gibbs then asked, ‘And (holding back the head) with the foot?’
Mr Mills replied, ‘I never trained it, I would never train it and I’ve never seen it.’
Monk was also alleged by an eyewitness audience member to have seen ‘stamping’ on Mr Atkinson during the altercation.
When asked if that was a trained technique in his experience, Mr. Mills said “no,” adding again that it was not ruled out as a possible tactic, so long as an officer could justify the use of force.
Prosecutors have alleged that Monk “exaggerated” his fear of Atkinson that night by kicking and tasing the former striker out of “anger”, and has since “deliberately lied” to cover up his “use of excessive force”.
Monk, who had 14 years of experience at the time, is on trial alongside fellow officer Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, also his then-lover.
She denies a charge of assault in which actual bodily harm was caused by using her retractable baton against Mr. Atkinson during the incident.
The process continues.