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November 29th 2021

Civil Liberties

Steven Gallant on why he hopes his story – and his actions helping to stop London Bridge terror attack – can inspire other prisoners to change

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

Steven Gallant on why he hopes his story – and his actions helping to stop London Bridge terror attack – can inspire other prisoners to change

Steven Gallant has spoken of his determination to continue the work of those who devoted their lives to transforming prisoners but were killed during a terrorist attack at a rehabilitation event in London two years ago today.

Steven Gallant has spoken of his determination to continue the work of those who devoted their lives to transforming prisoners but were killed during a terrorist attack at a rehabilitation event in London two years ago today.

Mr Gallant tackled terrorist Usman Khan on London Bridge on his first day out on licence on November 29, 2019, having attended the Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Khan used the event to launch a savage knife attack, injuring several and leaving Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, dead.

Mr Gallant tackled Khan with a chair and narwhal tusk before helping wrestle him to the ground. His actions assisted armed police in stopping Khan, with officers shooting him dead outside Fishmongers’ Hall before he was able to threaten the lives of others in the capital.

At the time Mr Gallant was himself serving a life sentence for murder, having being convicted along with another man in 2005 of killing Hull man Barrie Jackson. It was during his time in prison that he met Mr Merritt and become close friends.

Following his actions on London Bridge two years ago, Mr Gallant was praised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said he was ‘lost in admiration of his bravery’, and subsequently granted a royal pardon by the Queen to be considered for parole and release from prison 10 months early.

Mr Gallant was released earlier this summer. He has remained out of the public spotlight until today, giving his first media interview to Jon Snow of Channel 4 News.

He says he now intends to use his experience to help others find the right path in life.

“Jack was amazing, very intelligent, very caring and passionate about his role,” he said, recalling the influence of Mr Merritt on him and others.

“He had such a profound effect on so many people in the prison system. So not only is it sad that he was murdered in that way, in that terrible way, and of course, Saskia Jones too, but he affected positively so many peoples’ lives in the system.

“The work that he could have continued doing. It’s such a shame that somebody so powerful at such a young age has been taken from us. I think the important thing is that those of us who knew Jack and understood his type of work do our best to extract some of that goodness and continue that work in his name.

“I’ve been to some dark, dark places, but if can extract something from that, in a way that actually says ‘you don’t have to go for the same path, you know, you can avoid that, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, just take my advice on this – avoid that’. If someone can take from that, then great.”

Impact of prison sentence had ‘profound effect’ and was motivation to change

Mr Gallant says he knew early into his prison sentence that he had to use that time to change, and says although he is now being held up by many as an example of how the prison system can work, rehabilitation can be truly successful when an individual is able to accept and understand what they have done themselves.

“Prison can work. But I think it’s got to come from within. If you don’t want to change nothing can change you,” he said.

“You have to come to terms with it in some way because I think you have to be able to move forward. If you don’t come to terms with it, and try to understand it, then how do you move forward?

“I deeply regret the fact that I have taken someone’s life, and I understand and I accept that nobody has the right to take someone’s life or use violence. I’ve had a lot of time to think about that.

“The collective impact of being sent to prison, and seeing everybody devastated had a profound effect on me very early in my sentence, and it was that what made me make a firm decision to change, educate myself, and never use violence again.

Recalling how he tackled Khan on the day of the attack two years ago, Mr Gallant said he followed him out of Fishmongers’ Hall knowing people outside were oblivious to the danger they were in.

“He came towards me and he opened his jacket and showed me what was an explosive belt strapped to his waist. I think he wanted to scare me off. But he was in the midst of a killing spree. I couldn’t just walk away and for some reason. I assumed it was fake. And then I looked next to me, and there was a chap next to me holding out a narwhal tusk,” he said.

“I thought great, I’ll use this to take him on. The idea was really for me was just to occupy him while keeping busy until the police arrived.  He’s swinging his knives trying to get at me, I’m keeping enough distance just to keep myself safe and I managed to whack him again with the narwhal tusk, but this time it snapped over him. He then come running towards me because I’m unarmed now. So I backed off.

“He made his way towards the front door. And then suddenly just burst his way out. I thought there’s people out there they’re completely unaware of what’s just about to hit them, so I opened the door and went out and followed him out onto the street.

“I saw ladies walking towards him completely oblivious so I shouted ‘get back he’s a terrorist. Then others came out the building to join me. They gave chase to Usman Khan as he ran off down towards London Bridge, so I followed suit.

“There was a bit of scuffling, I think Khan did manage to get back to his feet for a short while, and he ended up getting back down again. And then within a minute or so, police arrived jumped out of the cars.”

Khan was shot dead by officers, and it was in the days later that Prime Minister Boris Johnson singled Mr Gallant out for praise.

“It felt good, not just because it was me, but because what happened there represented so much of what I believe in – you know, that people can change,” Mr Gallant said.

“I think it symbolised a really important moment that captured a lot of people’s imagination, in the sense that you can change – you can do something bad and do something good. And I hope that it inspired other prisoners.”

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, who was part of the legal team who successfully made the request for exercise of the Royal Prerogative under which Mr Gallant was able to apply for early release, says he has been ‘hugely impressed’ with his rehabilitation and desire to have a positive influence on others.

“Steve is a very articulate and reflective person who has used his time in prison constructively to educate and develop himself,” he said.

“He began his sentence unable to read and write properly and ended up studying a business studies degree whilst in prison which he is now finalising. He is an example of the potential for rehabilitation which started with his renouncement of violence and determination to make something of his life.

“Steve does nothing to diminish the severity of the actions of his past. He has used those experiences though to turn his life around. I have been hugely impressed by him from the day we met. He has refused to let his past define him and actually use it to make him a better person, and one who can make a positive difference to society. A real story of redemption.”

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