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University of Cambridge scraps Learning Together programme after terror attack claims lives of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

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The University of Cambridge’s prisoner education programme Learning Together has been scrapped after the deadly terrorist attack at its Fishmongers’ Hall event in 2019.

Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall incident in November 2019 (54226019)
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall incident in November 2019 (54226019)

Jack Merritt, 25, from Cottenham, and fellow Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones, 23, from Stratford-upon-Avon, were killed by the convicted terrorist Usman Khan at an alumni event put on by Learning Together on November 29, 2019.

An inquest jury concluded they were “unlawfully killed” and found that multiple failures from the authorities, including MI5 and the police, contributed to their deaths.

Now a University of Cambridge review of the Learning Together programme has recommended it should end.

Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, said: “The Learning Together Programme helped change many lives for the better. But the London Bridge tragedy caused unimaginable grief. As a result, an independent review recommended that the programme be halted. The University Council and General Board took the decision to follow that recommendation. The consequences of violence continue to ripple outwards and create further harm.

“Today I am thinking again of the families and friends of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, and the Learning Together community, who continue to suffer from the events of that dreadful day.”

Judge Mark Lucraft QC, a former chief coroner, set out 22 “matters of concern” in November, several of which were directed at the university and Learning Together, in a prevention of future deaths report.

He questioned why no formal risk assessment of the Fishmongers’ Hall event had taken place.

And asked why a major event could be held by a university at a livery company hall in London without “clear communication of the fact that it would be attended by serving and recently released serious offenders”.

In a statement released by the university it said “a detailed analysis and thorough review of the many issues raised by the tragedy and the findings from the coroner” had been undertaken.

It continued: “A number of working groups drawing on internal and external expertise, and including individuals with long experience in criminal justice, were set up to examine the safeguarding and risk assessment processes for work with prisoners and ex-offenders across the whole university, and to consider the future of the Learning Together Programme at Cambridge.

“Building on the findings of the working groups, a transition board chaired by Baroness Morgan of Huyton, Master of Fitzwilliam College, was convened in the summer of 2021 to make recommendations regarding the transition of Learning Together into its next phase. It recommended that the Learning Together Programme in Cambridge should end. This recommendation was approved in December 2021 by the University’s General Board and by its Council.

“Alongside the decision to end the Learning Together Programme at Cambridge, the University has strengthened its policies and process around risk assessment and working with people who have offended. Research in prisons continues.”

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