28 May 2021

Authorities complacent and passive over Usman Khan threat – victim’s father

28 May 2021

Authorities monitoring Fishmongers’ Hall attacker Usman Khan were “complacent and passive” in the face of the threat he posed, the father of one of his victims has said.

Convicted terrorist Khan fatally stabbed David Merritt’s son Jack, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at an alumni event put on by prisoner education programme Learning Together on November 29 2019.

An inquest jury concluded that a string of failures led to the deaths of the two young people in the terror attack.

Mr Merritt said in a statement it was “clear” the arrangements put in place for managing Khan after his release from prison in 2019, following being convicted for terrorism offences for his role in trying to set up an extremist training camp in Pakistan, were “not fit for purpose”.

He said this was “despite the authorities having had six years to plan for this from the time his sentence was changed from an indeterminate sentence to an extended sentence in 2013”.

Mr Merritt said the multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) process “did not operate effectively”.

Jack would have described himself proudly as woke, the opposite by definition, being ignorant. Jack was a do-gooder in the very best sense of that term

“Roles and responsibilities were unclear, communication between the agencies was inadequate and leadership and co-ordination were weak,” he said.

“Probation and police teams directly responsible for Khan’s supervision were staffed by officers with little or no experience of terrorism offenders.

“The security services and West Midlands counter-terrorism police were complacent and passive in the face of Khan’s extreme and continuing threat.”

Mr Merritt welcomed probation service changes on the management of terrorism offenders post-release and said he hoped all agencies and organisations involved with Khan “will learn the lessons highlighted by the inquest”.

He added: “Jack believed in the work he was doing with prisoners through Learning Together, he saw first-hand the transformative effect it had on the lives of prisoners and students alike.

“We support the work of Learning Together and we hope it continues in future with due regard to the issues highlighted by this inquest.

“We’re sorry for Saskia’s family, next to whom we have stood in solidarity and sorrow throughout this process.”

Mr Merritt said his son was “a good man doing good work” who was “helping people less fortunate than him to improve their education and their self esteem” through the Learning Together programme.

Jack Merritt (PA Media)

He added: “Following his death, we received many letters from serving and former prisoners he had worked with telling us how Jack had a positive impact on their lives.

“Jack understood the factors that had led many of the people he worked with to end up in prison and he understood the value of kindness and friendship in helping damaged people repair their lives.

“Jack would have described himself proudly as woke, the opposite by definition, being ignorant. Jack was a do-gooder in the very best sense of that term.”

In a separate interview with the BBC, broadcast as the jury delivered their conclusions, Mr Merritt said authorities responsible for monitoring Khan “failed” in their role to help keep the public safe.

“It’s the first responsibility of a government to keep its citizens safe,” Mr Merritt told the broadcaster.

“They knew when he was going to be released, they knew what his record was in prison, which was terrible,” he said.

“He was involved in violence and trying to radicalise other prisoners … threatening people, holding so-called Sharia courts, and all this sort of stuff.”

He added: “He was assessed by a psychologist just before he was released as being high risk … they said he was more of a risk when he was released than when he went into prison and that there was a definite threat that he would go back to his old ways.”

Mr Merritt continued: “With all that information, you would have thought that the authorities would have put in place a system to monitor and manage him effectively and keep the public safe, and they failed to do that.”

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