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‘Dismay’ at the University of Cambridge’s decision to discontinue prisoner scheme following terror attack

Cambridge University’s decision to discontinue a program that taught prisoners alongside students following a deadly attack at Fishmongers’ Hall was met with “dismay” from a group of penal reformers, criminologists, and ex-offenders.

This group includes individuals who survived Usman Khan’s terrorist attack, when he stabbed and killed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, who were killed at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the scheme.

Following the announcement that Cambridge University would be ending the programme, an open letter – signed by over 120 people – to the university’s Vice-Chancellor described their perception of the decision as an “abandonment” of those “most in need of support”.

Two notable signatories are Mark Conway and John Crilly. Both are alumni of the Learning Together program, and were attendees at the Fishmongers’ Hall event. Conway helped tackle Usman Khan as he ran out to London Bridge before being shot dead by police.

In a prevention of future deaths report, Judge Mark Lucraft QC refers to “collective failures” by police, probation officers, and security services. Furthermore, he also expressed concern that Khan was allowed to attend the event unaccompanied and without thorough security checks.

The Learning Together programme dramatically changed my life for the better

– Mark Conway

Following the university’s decision to stop the Learning Together program after an internal review, Conway urged them to reconsider. Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, he said: “This [the letter] is from people from all walks of life: professors, doctors, people that work in criminal justice system. We just don’t understand the rationale for the decision.”

“It goes against the advice that the university itself commissioned which said Learning Together could feasibly be delivered in a way that minimises and appropriately manages its risk.”

Conway added: “The Learning Together programme dramatically changed my life for the better. We have real concern that people will miss out and not get the opportunity of that and could go on to reoffend.”

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