Boris Johnson 'yet to speak' to father of London Bridge victim Jack Merritt

8 December 2019, 18:03

Boris Johnson was accused of using Jack Merritt&squot;s death to "make political capital"
Boris Johnson was accused of using Jack Merritt's death to "make political capital". Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has admitted he is yet to speak to the father of London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt despite his criticisms of the Prime Minister.

David Merritt accused Mr Johnson of trying to "make political capital" from his son's death after the Tory leader tried to blame Labour for the early release of convicted terrorist Usman Khan.

The attacker killed killed 25-year-old Jack and Saskia Jones, 23, in the attack at London's Fishmongers' Hall last month.

Mr Johnson claimed Khan, who was freed halfway through a 16-year jail sentence, was on the streets because of laws introduced by a "leftie government" and has committed to changing sentencing law.

But Mr Merritt said his son, who was the course co-ordinator of a prison rehabilitation programme, "would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily".

Jack Merritt's mother Anne (far left), girlfriend Leanne O'Brien (centre left) and father David (centre right) during a vigil
Jack Merritt's mother Anne (far left), girlfriend Leanne O'Brien (centre left) and father David (centre right) during a vigil. Picture: PA

On Sunday, in an interview with ITV News London, Mr Johnson said he had not spoken to Mr Merritt but had “every sympathy” with the victims’ families.

When asked directly if he had spoken to Mr Merritt, Mr Johnson said: "No, but I have every sympathy with the families of both Jack and Saskia, who lost their lives at London Bridge in the attack by Usman Khan.

"What I would say, with great respect, is that I stick to my position, which is that actually I don't think its sensible for people who are convicted of crimes of terrorism such as Usman Khan to be out automatically on early release.

"I said that long before the event took place - I said it in August."

Pressed on whether he would pick up the phone to speak to Mr Merritt, Mr Johnson replied: "With great respect, I will keep my contacts with families of victims private, if that's alright."

Previously writing in the Guardian, Mr Merritt said Jack would be "livid" if he could comment on his death.

"He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against," he said.

Mr Merritt later accused the Prime Minister of lying during the BBC Election Debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying Mr Johnson was taking people "for a ride".

When discussing security in the debate Mr Johnson said the automatic release of offenders like Khan was "wrong".

But Mr Merritt said on Twitter that there was no justification for cutting the early release tariff and claimed it was just trying to "look tough".

"If prisoners have engaged with rehabilitation and turned their lives around, why should they be punished for what Khan did?" he said.