The family of a Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack victim are suing the Government over his death.
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were fatally stabbed by Usman Khan, who was out on licence, during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 last year.
Khan, 28, attended the event, organised by Cambridge University’s Learning Together programme, armed with two kitchen knives wearing a fake suicide vest and killed Mr Merritt and Ms Jones before he was shot dead by police.
Mr Merritt’s parents, Anne and David, along with his brother Joe and his girlfriend Leanne O’Brien, are now taking legal action against the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office at the High Court.
Their solicitor Kate Maynard said that Khan was a convicted terrorist under multi-agency public protection when he killed Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, which raises ‘questions about the assessment and management of Usman Khan’s risk’.
Ms Maynard, a partner at Hickman and Rose, said that ‘where state agents or public bodies, by their acts or omissions, may have caused or contributed to a death’, the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights is engaged.
Jack Merritt, 25, who died following the terror attack during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 last year
She added that the Merritt family had ‘no alternative’ but to bring their case this week, shortly before the one-year time limit for claims brought under the Human Rights Act, in order to ‘protect their position’.
Ms Maynard said that ‘all the relevant public bodies who are legally represented at the inquest’ had reached a ‘standstill agreement’ with the family – except for the MoJ and the Home Office, which she said ‘unfathomably’ did not agree.
Ms Maynard said families ‘normally’ reach an agreement with public bodies they may take legal action against ‘so that proceedings do not have to be seriously contemplated or issued until after all the investigations are completed, including an inquest’.
She added that such civil cases are ‘often’ resolved after an inquest ‘without involving the courts at all’.
But Ms Maynard said: ‘In this case, all the relevant public bodies who are legally represented at the inquest and were approached agreed to a limitation holiday for one year, except – unfathomably – the Secretaries of State for Justice and the Home Department.
‘Regrettably, this left the family with no alternative but having to turn their minds to protecting their position by issuing proceedings, at a time when they were otherwise focusing their attention on celebrating Jack’s life on the anniversary of his death.’
Last month a court heard that the Prevent team dealing with the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker had ‘no specific training’ in handling convicted terrorists.
At a pre-inquest hearing, lawyer for Mr Merritt’s family Nick Armstrong suggested there was already evidence of a ‘systemic problem’ as ‘all the Prevent officers from Staffordshire’ said they had ‘no specific training in handling terrorist offenders’.
Saskia Jones, 23, died following a terror attack at London Bridge after convicted terrorist Usman Khan went on a knife rampage
He told the court that the monitoring of Khan had been ‘handed over by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit to the Staffordshire unit for reasons that remain to be explored and all of them are saying they have no specific training.’
Henry Pitchers QC, for Ms Jones’s family, pointed out that Khan had been assessed as the ‘highest level of risk’ and had 22 licence conditions on his release.
Mr Pitchers told the court: ‘We know he was a convicted terrorist, he had been out of prison for less than a year when this attack occurred.
‘We know and it won’t be disputed that he was subject to supervision and was also supervised by the probation services and relatively frequent contact they had with him.
‘As I understand it he was screened prior to release by police, released and assessed as being at the highest level of risk.
‘Looking at the evidence we’ve seen, his last unannounced visit from police officers was… Around two weeks before the attack.
‘They arrived at midday, found the flat to be dark, you see Mr Khan wasn’t happy about them taking pictures of his X-box games and he asked to speak to a solicitor. He asked them to leave which they did.’
Mr Pitchers questioned whether the Prevent team or probation ‘should have had an inkling’ of the immediate danger Khan posed – he was convicted of being part of an al-Qaeda-inspired cell which plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange and kill Boris Johnson in 2012.