The inquest into the terrorist attack on Fishmongers’ Hall has concluded today. Please see here for the press release and statements from the family.
Nick Armstrong, alongside Jesse Nicholls of Doughty Street Chambers, was instructed by Kate Maynard at Hickman and Rose to represent the family of Jack Merritt in this case.
Notes for editors:
The jury heard that up until his release Khan had been classified as a high risk Category A. Only 70 men are so classified in England and Wales, putting him in the top 0.1% of the prison population for dangerousness. Khan was reported to be a senior and radicalising extremist influence on the prison wing, involved in bullying and violence.
Despite this Khan was permitted to start attending Learning Together creative writing workshops from the end of 2017. Following that his behaviour started to improve, but as the jury also heard, this was alongside continuing intelligence relating to violence and radicalising others. Prison psychologists using extremism risk assessment tools were unconvinced that any meaningful change had occurred, and Khan was kept at high risk Category A.
Khan was assessed as more dangerous on release than when he went into prison and an imminent risk of causing serious harm to the public at any time with serious consequences. In November 2018 there were two strands of intelligence, one that he would return to his old ways (terrorist offending) on his release, and the other that he intended to carry out an attack after his release, having also expressed hatred for the UK.
Khan began, however, to be treated as a success story. The jury heard that Learning Together was a relatively new development. It had begun in 2014 in HMP Grendon but that is a therapeutic prison with a carefully selected and low risk prison population. Only two years later, in late 2016, and with limited if any evaluation, Learning Together was rolled out to HMP Whitemoor. HMP Whitemoor is a high security prison housing some of the most dangerous men in the country, including Khan. The governor of HMP Whitemoor, William Styles, was pursuing a Masters degree at Cambridge and knew the Learning Together founders. He told the inquest that Learning Together was rolled out to Whitemoor because it was geographically closer to Cambridge.
The jury heard that little if any consideration was given to whether Khan was right for the programme, and none was given to the implications of the fact that he was approaching release. Khan’s release was highly unusual. Although he had received what amounted to a life sentence in 2012, this had been quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2013 with the result that he was now to be released automatically, without having been passed as safe by the Parole Board. A man classified as highly dangerous to the public was therefore coming straight out of prison. He was also being invited to high profile Cambridge University events with guests including judges and other senior people in the criminal justice system.
Although the risk assessment tools were all flashing their warnings, Khan collided with an inexperienced probation offender manager and police management team. Although Khan was ostensibly the responsibility of West Midlands counter terrorist police, because Khan lived in Stafford he was to be managed by neighbourhood officers from the Prevent team there, who had no experience in managing offenders.
The local probation team, and the Staffordshire police team now with direct responsibility for managing Khan, had only managed one terrorist offender before, one of Khan’s co-defendants from 2012, who had just been recalled to prison having committed further terrorist offences. The probation officer had never used the extremist risk assessment tool before. The police offender manager had had to develop his own policy without help and his contact with Khan was limited. During the course of the next eleven months, no new structured risk assessment was ever completed by probation.
The jury heard that this was significant because that should have been the route to flushing out someone who, despite the outwards trappings of change, remained in fact entirely unreformed and deceptive. Khan simply remained quiet. He would have known that he had to comply with reporting and cooperation obligations or he would be recalled, like his friend. That is therefore what he did. Along with the police, Khan was also investigated by MI5. No-one saw anything. The passage of time led to complacency. Despite what all the tools were saying, Khan the creative writer had written his own success story, and all those listening now believed it.
Khan’s restrictions were therefore reduced. He left a probation hostel and went to live in the community. Warnings that he was becoming isolated and withdrawn (identified as risk factors before his release) were beginning to emerge, but too late. He suddenly lost the services of mentors. He stopped going to the gym or the mosque. The police and MI5 vetoed him from enrolling on a dumper truck training course, because they were concerned about terrorists using vehicles as weapons. They did not however act to stop him attending the Learning Together event at an iconic location in central London, which was being arranged at the same time. Learning Together was, again, seen as part of Khan’s success story. It was seen as a protective factor, not as a highly desirable potential target. Those monitoring Khan had not ascertained that he had not actually done any educational work with Learning Together since his release.
Without any discussion of the risks of him doing so, Khan was permitted to attend the event, and to travel alone to London by train. His licence conditions had been relaxed to allow that. He took a bag with three knives and what turned out to be a fake suicide vest. No-one thought to ask him to remove his coat, and his bag was never searched. There was no security arch at the Hall because no-one had thought about that either.
At two minutes to 2 pm, during a break in the day’s events, Khan emerged from a gents toilet cubicle and stabbed Jack Merritt, a 25 year old employee of the University who had tried to help Khan. On emerging from the gents, Khan stabbed Saskia Jones, a volunteer with Learning Together. Both Jack and Saskia lost blood quickly. They died despite strenuous efforts to save them.
Khan stabbed three other people, who survived, one by pretending to be dead. Several men at the event risked their lives and intervened. Three pursued him on to the bridge. They were a serving prisoner (Steve Gallant), a former prisoner (John Crilly) and a probation communications worker called Darryn Frost, who was at the event in order to write about it. Khan was still armed and very aggressive. Gallant had taken a narwhal tusk from the wall at the Hall, and handed it to Frost who stabbed Khan. Crilly took a fire extinguisher. When he set that off it distracted Khan long enough for Gallant to pull him to the floor. The jury heard that these men had saved countless other lives. They were personally thanked by the coroner.
Members of the public also helped but within two minutes armed police had arrived and Khan was shot and killed.
For more information please contact:
Kate Maynard – 07812 974613 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Newling – 07710 163 415 – email@example.com