- Boris Johnson was accused of politicising the London Bridge terror attack despite the pleas of one victim’s family to do so.
- David Merritt, the father of victim Jack Merritt, asked politicians not to use the ‘terrible, isolated incident’ to justify more ‘draconian’ justice measures.
- By that time, the prime minister had already written an article setting out a new tougher stance on terrorism sentences in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
- Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said Johnson had gone ‘straight from a tragedy to reheating pre-packaged political lines smearing the Labour party.’
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Boris Johnson has been accused of ignoring the pleas of family members of victims of the London Bridge terror attack not to turn the tragedy into an election issue after he said Labour was to blame for the release of a terrorist who murdered two people with a knife.
Despite one victim’s family begging politicians and newspapers not to politicise their son’s death, Johnson said on Sunday that a “lefty government” was responsible for Usman Khan’s release from prison.
David, Merritt, the father of victim Jack Merritt, released a statement after his son’s death paying tribute to his ” “beautiful, talented boy” and asking politicians not to use the “terrible, isolated incident” to justify more “draconian” justice measures.
By that time, the prime minister had already written an article setting out a new tougher stance on terrorism sentences in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, under the headline: “Give me a majority and I’ll keep you safe from terror”. Britain goes to the polls in less than two weeks.”
It came as the second victim of the attack was named as Saskia Jones, a prisoner rehabilitation volunteer.
On Monday morning, after the Mail’s latest frontpage emerged covering a proposed Conservative crackdown on prisoners released after serving sentences for terrorism, David Merritt tweeted: “Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda. Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.”
—David Merritt (@butwhatifitsall) December 1, 2019
Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said Johnson had gone “straight from a tragedy to reheating pre-packaged political lines smearing the Labour party.”
Khan was released under licence around a year ago, having served seven years of a jail term for taking part in an al-Qaida-inspired bomb plot. On Friday he stabbed Merritt and Jones to death at a conference on prisoner rehabilitation, before being shot to death by police.
On Sunday, Johnson detailed his claim that Labour, which was last in government in 2009, was to blame for Khan’s early release.
He told BBC’s Andrew Marr: “His release was necessary under the law because of the automatic early release scheme under which he was sentenced – that was the reality – and that was brought in by Labour with the support of Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour party.”
“I think it is ridiculous, I think it is repulsive, that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law.”
The case is more complex than Johnson suggested. Khan was jailed in 2012 under an indeterminate public protection sentence, which the Conservatives scrapped later that year. An appeal lodged in 2013 resulted in his sentence being replaced by a 16-year one, and he was released after serving 7 of those years.
Johnson detailed those claims further in a lengthy Twitter thread. Subsequently, a popular legal blogger called the Secret Barrister said the prime minister had plagiarised much of the thread from his own blogpost on the issue. The barrister said he had written the post in order to debunk earlier accuracies made by Johnson.
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Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Johnson’s intervention was “distasteful.”
“You’ve got a community which is coming together in a brilliant way and straight out of the door the prime minister’s trying to make it an election issue – I just think it’s pretty distasteful,” she told BBC Radio 5.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied that the Conservatives had politicised the attack. But in the same interview with Sky News on Sunday he said: “The question is, for people who are watching the show, who they trust: Boris Johnson to keep us safe or Jeremy Corbyn, with his track record?”
Labour leader Corbyn said on the weekend that terrorists should “not necessarily” serve their full sentences and called instead for a greater focus on deradicalisation and rehabilitation.
He also condemned cuts to areas such as probation, mental health, and youth services, and said they were likely to create “missed chances to intervene in the lives of people who go on to commit inexcusable acts.”
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