Fishmongers’ Hall Inquest: Prevention of Future Deaths concerns of Saskia Jones’ family

Fri, 02 Jul 2021

Henry Pitchers QC, Philip Rule and Ramya Nagesh, instructed by Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, have presented to the Coroner the family of Saskia Jones’s submissions aimed at exposing the dangers for the future from the failings seen in this case. Saskia was a young woman who was brutally murdered in a terror attack at the Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019. Saskia’s mother, uncles, and aunt sat patiently and with great dignity through the 7-week inquest hearing the very concerning evidence revealed multiple failings. The jury returned damning conclusions.

 

The case has attracted national media attention, and the failings of many of those involved have been rightly criticised: see for example

-      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57671575 

-      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-57688732

-      https://twitter.com/BBCBreakfast/status/1410830593902870529

-      https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/cambridge-graduates-jack-merritt-and-saskia-jones-strove-to-9201289/

-      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fishmongers-hall-victims-family-criticise-prison-reform-programme-xxnsqq7jg 

 

The inquests into the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt have now concluded.  The next step is for the Coroner, HHJ Lucraft QC, to consider whether there are systemic failings that should be made the subject of a Regulation 28 Report – otherwise known as a ‘Prevention of Future Deaths Report’. Such a report will provide suggestions as to how particular organisations could improve their practices, in order to prevent such a tragedy from occurring in the future. All the Interested Parties have the opportunity to raise their views before the report is published.

 

The inquest revealed a number of errors that led to Usman Khan being able to walk into the Learning Together event as an invited guest, armed with two knives and an imitation suicide vest. Ultimately, these errors allowed Usman Khan to carry out a vicious knife attack – injuring a number of people, and killing Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. The family of Saskia Jones wish to ensure that this sequence of events can never be repeated again. No5’s team have therefore been working closely with the family and Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors to ensure that the family’s concerns are fully represented to the Coroner.

 

The family have raised the following concerns, and made recommendations to address each:

 

(i) The management of terrorist offenders in prisons is insufficient. For example, the process of approving terrorist offenders to take part in prison programmes suffered from a lack of proper documentation and clarity as to what exactly the programme would involve. In this case, Usman Khan was approved by the prison to engage with the Learning Together programme, without the appropriate people being aware that this would involve him engaging in post-release work as well, with minimal safeguards. The family have made recommendations in relation to organisations working with a terrorist offender in prison;

(ii) The management of terrorist offenders in the community is insufficient. For example, there was intelligence known about Usman Khan’s intentions to commit a further attack which was not shared with the organisers of the event or those responsible for approving his attendance. The family have made a number of detailed recommendations in relation to the management of terrorist offenders in the community;

(iii) There needs to be a proper risk assessment made and consideration of security arrangements where a terrorist offender is attending an event. In this case, Learning Together did not carry out any sort of risk assessment for the event and took no steps to ensure that there were appropriate security arrangements at the Fishmongers’ Hall. They seem to have ignored the risk that a terrorist offender might pose at an event in such a high-profile location. The family have recommended that – if it is to continue at all, in any form – Learning Together and Cambridge University make it a requirement that a proper risk assessment be conducted for all events;

(iv) That Learning Together does not appear to have been willing to learn properly from or make any significant changes to their programme. Indeed, there appears to have been some empathy and/or sympathy shown about Usman Khan’s reasons for committing the attack in emails that were revealed at the Inquest. The family would wish Cambridge University to consider whether it is realistically feasible and appropriate to continue with the programme at all, given that no lessons appear to have been taken on board. If the programme is to continue, the family feel strongly that the Directors should not continue in their role so that the programme can be headed by those willing and able to make major changes;

(v) That the Fishmongers’ Company had identified a number of potential risks in assessments conducted in 2019 (including the risk of a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attack, using a knife), but have not yet implemented measures to address those. The family recommend that such identified risks are immediately addressed and measures implemented without delays;

(vi) That there appears to have been a certain lack of structured communication between members of different emergency services on the day. This could lead to delays – any delay being critical in a time-sensitive situation such as this. Although the evidence at the inquest was that no change could have saved Saskia’s life, the family wish to ensure that future situations do not suffer from any sort of delay or lack of communication. The family, therefore, recommend that policy and procedure in relation to communications between emergency services be assessed and revised;

(vii) On the scene, medical responders used a modified triage system in assessing the casualties. It is unclear what exactly that system requires medical responders to be sure of before they declare death. The family would recommend assessment and clarification of the guidance for implementing modified triage systems in major incidents.

 

The recommendations of all Interested Parties will be considered by the Coroner, and a report produced in due course.

 

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