Oxford University suspends its prison literature course

Oxford University suspends its prison literature course that London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt was due to open today

  • Jack Merritt, 25, was due to speak to 100 undergraduates at Balliol College today
  • His talk was about the proposed scheme at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire
  • But he and Saskia Jones, 23, were fatally stabbed on Friday near London Bridge
  • Course was due to organised by prison education programme Learning Together

Jack Merritt, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, who was one of the two terror attack victims

Oxford University has suspended its prison literature course which was due to be opened this morning by a London Bridge terror attack victim.

Ex-Cambridge student Jack Merritt, 25, was due to speak to 100 undergraduates at Balliol College about the scheme at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire.

But he and Saskia Jones, 23, were fatally stabbed on Friday by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge.

The course was due to organised by Learning Together, a prison education programme associated with Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.

A spokesman for Balliol College tweeted today: ‘Jack Merritt was due this morning at Balliol to talk to 100 enthused undergraduates about a proposed literature course at HMP Grendon. We remember Jack’s passionate commitment to helping others.’ 

Mr Merritt, who had a master’s degree from Cambridge University, had been working as a course co-ordinator at the university’s Learning Together programme alongside Khan.

Before studying law at Manchester University, Mr Merritt attended schools in Cambridge, where he lived with parents Anne and David and younger brother Joe. 

Mr Merritt was due to speak about a literature course at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire

The 25-year-old Cambridge graduate was due to speak to 100 undergraduates at Balliol today

From Manchester, he returned to his home city, completing a master’s degree in philosophy. Mr Merritt shared details of his work with prisoners on Twitter.

In September last year, he wrote of the ‘exciting news’ that he was ‘welcoming students with criminal convictions to study undergraduate certificates… to improve inclusivity in our university’.

The family of Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, have asked for his death to not to be used to justify introducing ‘even more draconian sentences’ on offenders in a heartfelt tribute.

They said in a statement issued yesterday: ‘He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.

‘Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog. 

Mr Merritt, 25, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, is pictured with his girlfriend Leanne O’Brien

Saskia Jones, 23, of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was the woman who died in the attack

‘We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary.’

And in a tweet yesterday evening, Mr Merritt’s father David said: ‘Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda.

‘Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.’

The attack has prompted the Ministry of Justice to review the licence conditions of every convicted terrorist released from prison, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was ‘probably about 74’ people.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said any of the individuals concerned who was found to be in breach of their licence conditions would be recalled to prison.  

Ex-Cambridge student Mr Merritt was due to speak at Balliol College (above) in Oxford today

Police and emergency services at the scene of the attack on London Bridge on Friday

Mr Buckland said an order had already been issue preventing prisoners on early release attending events such as that where Khan carried out his attack.

Mr Johnson has vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences. 

Miss Jones, a volunteer with Learning Together from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was described as having a ‘great passion’ for providing support to victims of crime by her family.

In a statement, they said: ‘She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.

‘Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support.’

Khan, who was living in Stafford, was given permission to travel into the heart of London by police and the Probation Service. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (front row second left), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (third right) take part in a vigil at Guildhall Yard in London today

Flowers and tributes left at London Bridge today, three days after the terror attack on Friday

Convicted of terror offences in February 2012, he was released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through his 16-year prison sentence.

He launched the fatal attack at the Learning Together event just before 2pm on Friday.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.

One of the three people injured in the attack has been allowed to return home while the other two remain in a stable condition in hospital. No-one else is being sought over the attack. 

A vigil was held today to pay tribute to the victims of the attack and to honour the emergency services and members of the public who responded to the incident.  

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