The father of a man killed in the London Bridge attack has accused Boris Johnson of lying and making “political capital” from his son’s death during the BBC leaders’ debate.
David Merritt – whose son Jack was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan – called the prime minster a fraud following his appearance on Friday night’s TV debate, six days before polling day.
Following last Friday’s attack, the Conservatives have pledged to toughen up prison sentences. Merritt believes this would have angered his son, who had “devoted his energy to the purpose” of prisoner rehabilitation.
“Johnson lied and used our son’s death to make political capital,” Merritt said in a thread posted on Twitter on Saturday. “Wake up Britain: this man is a fraud. He’s the worst of us, and he’s taking you for a ride. You may think the options open to you in this election are not entirely to your liking. Me neither, but I’ll be voting least worst option: anti-Tory.”
During the debate on Friday, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, challenged Johnson over remarks Merritt made last week, criticising the use of his son’s death as a pretext to introduce harsher criminal justice reforms.
Corbyn said: “I was very moved by what Jack Merritt’s father said about what his son was trying to do. That he wanted a society where you did address the huge problems where somebody committed awful acts like that – yes of course, you must imprison them, yes of course, you must try and rehabilitate them if you can.”
Responding to Corbyn’s challenge, Johnson said he had “huge sympathy for Mr Merritt and the relatives and families of both victims, and it was an absolutely terrible thing”.
Johnson added: “But I still think it’s wrong that some one like Usman Khan, who was sentenced to 21 years … should have been automatically released on eight years, when the judge, when he was first convicted, made it clear that he was a very serious jihadi.”
The attack took place on 29 November just before 2pm in the Fishmongers’ Hall at an event run by Learning Together, a programme focussed on prisoner rehabilitation.
Khan had been released automatically from prison on license in December last year after serving eight years for plotting a terror attack on the London Stock Exchange.
He had originally been jailed indefinitely in 2012 under an imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence. This type of sentence was later scrapped by the Tories and Khan was sentenced to 16 years following a successful appeal in 2013.
Khan was automatically released midway through this sentence under now-scrapped sentencing laws. The parole board did not assess Khan prior to his release, despite the requests of a judge.
On Saturday morning, Merritt said that Corbyn “spoke the truth last night”, adding that the facts of attack – including Khan’s motivation and what could have been done differently – will not be known until an inquest is complete.
He called for an inquiry, rather than a “witch hunt”, to examine what can be done to prevent future attacks and accused the Conservative of “trying to look tough on the backs of other prisoners’ suffering”.