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by Alain Tolhurst
03 December 2019
Boris Johnson denies exploiting London Bridge deaths for general election campaign

London Bridge attack tributes - Image credit: PA

Boris Johnson denies exploiting London Bridge deaths for general election campaign

Boris Johnson has denied exploiting the London Bridge terror attack to help his general election campaign.

It comes after the father of one of the victims says his son would be “seething” that his death is “being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate”.

After announcing a raft of justice measures in the wake of last Friday’s atrocity, the Prime Minister said he has “campaigned against early release and against short sentences for many years”.

He also said it was “pretty obvious” the perpetrator, convicted terrorist Usman Kan, was “not really a suitable candidate for automatic early release”.

The 28-year-old was out of prison on licence after plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange when he stabbed two people to death and injured several more in the capital.

Dave Merritt, the father of Jack Merritt, one of those killed, has criticised the response to the attack and it being politicised ahead of polling day next week.

In an article for the Guardian he issued a thinly veiled rebuke to Johnson’s call to tighten up the laws on early release and hand out tougher sentences.

He writes of 25-year-old Jack: “He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against. We should never forget that.”

Merritt added: “That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key.

“Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people on joint enterprise.

“Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge.”

Asked about Merritt’s comments the Prime Minister said: “Of course, I feel, as everybody does, a huge amount of sympathy for the loss of Jack Merritt’s family, and indeed for all the relatives of Jack and Saskia [Jones], who perished at London Bridge.

“But, be in no doubt, I’ve campaigned against early release and against short sentences for many years. It was in my manifesto in 2012 when I was mayor of London.

“I said it in August and it’s in the Queen’s speech.

“In fact, there’s a bill we’ve got ready to go in the Queen’s speech to stop automatic early release for serious and violent offenders.”

He added: “And I do think, unfortunately, that is the problem that we face.

“We have too many people who are released automatically onto our streets and we need to address that.”

Johnson was asked if someone like Khan could ever be de-radicalised, replying: “That is a very profound question and there is an issue there that we need to talk about frankly as a society and when we look at some of the problems that we come across in trying to de-radicalise people, we have to face the grim reality that in some cases it is really very difficult.

“I think this was one of those cases and, alas, I think it also was pretty obvious from the kinds of things he was saying and continued to say that he was not really a suitable candidate for automatic early release.”

Khan was given an indeterminate sentence for his role in an Islamic terror plot in 2012, but that was overturned on appeal a year later.

Instead he was sent to prison for 16 years plus five years on licence but was released automatically in 2018 after having served eight years altogether.

Johnson criticised the judge’s decision, saying: “I don’t think that was long enough in view of the gravity of his offence, which was to conspire to blow up the stock exchange and to cause other types of mayhem, and in view of the view that was taken of him by the initial sentencing judge, Judge Wilkie, and looking at what the judge had to say about him, it’s clear he was viewed as a very serious threat.”

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