It was just before the 10 pm bulletins of the London Bridge terrorist attack that killed the lives of 25-year-old Jack Merritt and 23-year-old Saskia Jones when the prime minister made a statement to the camera – the second. of the night.
The political campaign break seemed to be over, as Boris Johnson said in a TV clip to be broadcast to millions of homes across the UK that he "long argued" that it was "a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to leave. from prison early ".
"It is very important to break this habit and apply appropriate sentences to dangerous criminals, especially terrorists," the prime minister said. "I think the public will want to see," he added.
Terrorists Should Not Get Early Release – Johnson
When the newspapers arrived at night, it was immediately clear why Johnson had made the second intervention. Usman Khan, the knife-wielding terrorist who indiscriminately attacked several innocent people, was released early from prison.
Saskia Jones also died in the attack
There were serious questions to answer as to why Khan, who had been electronically tagged and was being monitored, ended up in a position to carry out such a brutal attack.
Downing Street went on the offensive. Instead of being forced to try to answer questions about Khan or even the previous government's criminal justice record, the prime minister begged the public to return him with a majority so he could change the law to ensure that terrorists and other criminals violent people were not released early from prison.
It was an approach that expected Downing Street to contain the consequences of this terrible attack. And the Prime Minister's team calculated that the public would instinctively support longer sentences for dangerous criminals.
After such an indiscriminate and violent terrorist attack, people would like to make sure that the authorities are doing everything they can to keep their streets safe.
Usman Khan was arrested and shot by police at London Bridge
But for Jack Merritt's family, it was too much intervention to bear. The 25-year-old son had dedicated his life to helping rehabilitate serious criminals.
He was the course coordinator of the Learning Together prisoner reform program, which sought to rehabilitate serious criminals. He had worked with his assassin Usman Khan and was also the mentor and friend of John Crilly, the former prisoner who attacked Khan with a fire extinguisher after he launched his deadly attack during the gathering of former inmates on the London Bridge.
Jack Merritt passionately believed in rehab and "helping people to redeem themselves."
Jack's father Dave Merritt, in shock and sadness over the sudden loss of his son, told me in an interview this week that he felt compelled to speak for his son when the prime minister began using his death to "score political points." " about sentence.
"What was needed was just, you know, a dignified approach by which politicians expressed their regrets, expressed their condolences to those affected and continued campaigning in the elections. This was not an electoral issue. But what he (Boris Johnson) instead it took what I think he saw as an opportunity.
"So where most of us were watching this and seeing a tragedy unfold before our eyes … Boris Johnson saw an opportunity, he went on the offensive and started talking about extending tariffs to inmates.
"If there was no comment on how it was done, then I would not have said anything, I would have just continued to suffer and help support my family."
"I could see what happened and the fact that it was used in such a political way and could see the good work Jack did and his colleagues started to fall apart – people walking away, talking about longer sentences, Merritt told me .
"I felt it was important that someone said something. And it happened to me and obviously my son was killed. People will hear me."
"I know what he would have said, so he basically said what he would have said."
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Jack's father says he really doesn't know if terrorists can be rehabilitated. But he also believes that it is wrong to accept this incident and use it to indiscriminately punish all violent offenders with more punitive sentences.
And what happened at the London Bridge that day talks about it. Yes, it is true that a terrorist who should never have been released killed Jack Merritt, but it is also true that a former criminal – John Crilly – and another prisoner on liberation day were the ones who persecuted Khan and prevented him from attacking more innocent people. . .
This is why Merritt argued that the "instinctive" reaction was not what his son wanted, or that debate about rehabilitation and recurrence of needs. He wants "an inquiry, not a witch hunt."
And once this election has passed, that is what it will receive. There will be a thorough investigation into the death of your child and perhaps this will trigger a broader debate on criminal and judicial policies, which shifts to rehabilitation and redemption rather than emphasizing longer prison sentences in our already chronically overcrowded prisons.
The impact of Jack Merritt's death on his family was only increased by this election. Number 10, in full campaign mode, sought to position itself and offer a condemnation policy in order to control the consequences of the tragedy and move forward on the news agenda.
It was a decision that may have helped keep Johnson's election campaign on track soon after the terrorist attack. But they lost their personal tragedy trying to uphold the political agenda of law and order.
The failure of the prime minister to contact the Merritts to hear their perspective on his son and his work, or even offer condolences, is a misstep that he may regret.
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