Officers from Prevent responsible for monitoring an Islamist fanatic who killed two people near London Bridge had “no specific training” in handling terrorists, an inquest has been told.
Convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, stabbed Cambridge University graduates Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November last year.
Two other women, named in court as Isobel Rowbotham and Stephanie Szczotko, were injured in the attack.
Khan, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public with a narwhal tusk, a decorative pike and a fire extinguisher.
The attacker, who had been living in Stafford, was then shot dead by police on London Bridge.
At a pre-inquest hearing on Friday, a lawyer for Merritt’s family suggested there was already evidence of a “systemic problem”.
Nick Armstrong said: “In this case already on the material that has been produced, we have all the Prevent officers from Staffordshire saying they had no specific training in handling terrorist offenders.
“It was handed over by West Midlands counter-terrorism unit to the Staffordshire unit for reasons that remain to be explored and all of them are saying they have no specific training.”
Henry Pitchers QC, for Jones’s family, said the question was not whether Prevent or probation knew there was a risk but whether they “should have had an inkling”.
Prevent is the government’s flagship anti-radicalisation programme for steering people away from terrorism. Crucially, it is aimed at individuals who have yet to cross the criminal threshold.
Pitchers said Khan had been assessed as the “highest level of risk” and had 22 licence conditions on his release.
He said police officers made their last unannounced visit on 14 November 2019, just over two weeks before the attack. They found his flat was dark. Khan was not happy about photos being taken of his Xbox games and wanted to speak to his solicitor, Pitchers said.
Khan was unemployed, lived alone and his mentoring had ceased, which was “hardly a reassuring profile”, the lawyer added.
A full inquest, due to start at the Old Bailey on 12 April next year, will examine how the terror attack happened and if it could have been stopped.