'Nothing short of heroic'
Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has issued a statement following the conclusion of the Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquest.
“Police officers up and down the country go to work each day because they want to keep the public safe. They often put themselves in danger to protect the public from those looking to do them harm. On the day of this attack, officers from the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police and the British Transport Police did just that, and so much more.
“Today, the jury determined that the officers who shot and killed the attacker did so lawfully. Following their verdict, the Coroner, HHJ Lucraft QC stated that the police officers who responded did so with speed, that they each acted with commendable bravery and that lives were saved.
“Every officer – both armed and unarmed – who responded that day, as well as the members of the public who confronted the attacker, showed bravery and courage that was quite extraordinary. Not only were they faced with a man who was armed with knives and had already attacked several people, but it then became apparent he was also armed with what appeared to be a viable suicide vest.
“Officers were aware they were well within the blast zone, but they did not retreat and they were joined by other colleagues; all knowingly putting their own lives at risk to confront the threat posed by the attacker, in order to keep the public safe.
“After the attacker had been stopped, officers approached the terrorist and inspected the vest with explosives experts and police dogs. Officers also worked with other emergency responders to give life-saving treatment to those seriously injured during the attack. The speed and professionalism with which this was all done undoubtedly saved lives.
“Quite simply, their actions on that day were nothing short of heroic.
“I am immensely proud of everyone who responded to this attack, and the fact that police and other emergency services responded so well is testament to the huge amount of work that goes into planning and exercising our collective responses to these sorts of incidents.
“However, as we have heard over the past few weeks, despite those efforts, two bright young people – Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt – were tragically killed during the attack. Following the inquests into their deaths, the jury found that there were omissions and failures in the management of the attacker and in the sharing of information and guidance by the agencies responsible.
“As the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, I said immediately after the verdict that those failures and omissions were simply unacceptable and I would like to reiterate that I am deeply sorry we were not better at this in November 2019.
“Many things have changed since this attack to the way that we and other agencies work to manage terrorist offenders. The Government has made changes to the law, the Ministry of Justice has strengthened prison and probation services, and we in policing have developed a far stronger national offender management model, which is being implemented across the country.
“We now await the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report to see whether there is anything more we may be able to do to improve how we manage terrorist offenders when they are released from prison.
“I would like to thank the Coroner and juries for their detailed examination of the deaths of Jack and Saskia, and the attacker. I must also praise the investigation team from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which carried out an exemplary investigation into the attack – firstly in the immediate aftermath, to ensure no others were involved or responsible for the attack itself, and then leading the investigation on behalf of the Coroner for these inquests.
“But my final words are reserved for Jack and Saskia. They were two wonderful and talented young people who already achieved so much in their lives, which were tragically cut short. My thoughts and the thoughts of everyone in policing are with the friends, families and loved ones of Jack and Saskia, and they are with everyone who was injured, traumatised or affected by this attack.”