The inquest into the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, who were killed by Usman Khan on 29thNovember 2019 concluded today. The Inquests were heard before coroner HHJ Mark Lucraft QC and a jury.
The jury’s conclusion is that the victims were “unlawfully killed” and there was a “failure to complete event specific risk assessment by any party” involved in the organisation of and security measures for the event at Fishmongers’ Hall.
The jury also criticized the agencies involved in the management of Khan, saying there was “unacceptable management, a lack of accountability” and serious deficiencies in management by MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements)”, “insufficient experience and training”, and a “blind spot” to Khan’s unique risks due to his “‘poster boy’ image”.
The jury found a “failure in the sharing of information and guidance by agencies responsible for monitoring or investigating Usman Khan which contributed to the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones”, and a “missed opportunity for those with expertise and experience to give guidance”.
Following this verdict, Philip Jones, Saskia’s uncle, read out the following statement on behalf of the family:
“We would like to thank the Coroner and Counsel to The Inquest for the way they have conducted the Inquest. We note with gratitude that the family has been placed at the fore front of the process to establish the facts of the events that led to the murder of Saskia. We also wish to thank our legal representatives, who have worked tirelessly on our behalf and always with Saskia at the heart of their work.
“We have heard evidence from many witnesses, including some brave individuals who risked their own safety to try to avoid any further injury or loss of life. We pay tribute to those people who were put in harm’s way by their employers, with little attention paid to their safety. Some of these individuals paid a heavy price for the decisions made or not made by their employers.
We were particularly concerned after hearing the evidence given by the Learning Together Directors, which allowed an insight to their attitude and the seemingly scant regard they had for the fundamental safety of their staff, volunteers and attendees at the event at Fishmongers Hall.
“It could be said that their single-minded view of the rehabilitation of offenders – using Usman Khan, in our view, as a “poster boy” for their programme – significantly clouded their judgement. It seems there was no intent on their part to listen or take notice of what they were dealing with in working with such a high risk individual. Learning Together declined an opportunity to learn more about Usman Khan and his risk factors. This may have contributed to a failure to take account of the steps necessary to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved. This view appears to have remained unchanged despite the events at Fishmongers Hall in November 2019.
“Their refusal when giving evidence adequately to review past behaviours within their organization and to consider that they may have done things differently is astounding and insulting to the family.
“Likewise, the same approach was demonstrated by The Fishmongers Company, who have also sought to exonerate themselves of any responsibility and refuse to accept, even with hindsight, that they could have avoided the murder of Saskia, with a little more common sense relating to what would amount to simple security measures.
“There are clearly other individuals and organisations, encompassed within “The State” agencies that must take a share of the responsibility for the events of 29th November 2019. There will be some detail we will never know, and it is for those who hide behind the cloak of secrecy to search their own conscience and review their own potential failings. However, it is beyond understanding and astonishing that not one of the State agencies sufficiently considered the associated risk and therefore questioned the wisdom of sending Usman Khan unaccompanied to London.
“Whilst we appreciate where witnesses have reviewed their part and accepted where failings occurred, it has been unsavoury and distressing to hear a number of witnesses trying to avoid proper consideration of their part in the death and injury of innocent people. The apparent unwillingness of some of those involved in the management of Usman Khan and organization of the event at Fishmongers Hall on 29th November 2019 to take any responsibility and show some remorse in the presence of the family, has been very frustrating and ultimately distressing for us.
“The conclusion of the Inquest does not in any way ease the pain of our loss of Saskia and leaves a number of unanswered questions relating to failures of a number of organisations and individuals.
“It is important to us that we ensure that Saskia’s legacy is not undermined by any association she had with Learning Together. It is clear to us that Saskia’s idea of rehabilitation was not consistent with the philosophy of Learning Together.
“Saskia’s key focus and priority had always been in relation to supporting survivors, particularly those survivors of sexual violence, in the context of violence against women and children.
Saskia was in the process of securing her first steps into what we know would have been a successful and demanding career in victim support services within West Midlands Police Force, where we are sure she would have been a positive influence.
“We now wish to reflect on the findings of the Inquest jury and continue to work with those who are helping us to build a suitable legacy for Saskia.
“We ask that the press and media respect our wish for privacy hereafter.”
Legal representation for Saskia Jones’ Family
Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors
- Henry Pitchers QC
- Philip Rule
- Ramya Nagesh
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