The Queen has granted a pardon to the murderer who helped disrupt the London Bridge terror attack by confronting Usman Khan with a narwhal tusk while on day release.
Steven Gallant, who was praised for risking his life to stop the attack, has been granted the royal prerogative of mercy, an extremely rare case of absolution for a convicted murderer.
Gallant, 42, will see the 17-year sentence he received in 2005 reduced by 10 months, and could apply for parole next June, the Daily Mirror reported.
The Ministry of Justice said the Queen was advised to grant this pardon as a result of Gallant’s “exceptionally brave actions […] which helped save people’s lives despite the tremendous risk to his own”.
In an extraordinary turn of events, the family of firefighter Barrie Jackson, whom Gallant killed outside a pub in Hull, backed the decision to free the murderer early.
Jackson’s student son Jack, 21, said: “I have mixed emotions – but what happened at London Bridge goes to show the reality that people can change,” adding that he would not rule out meeting his father’s killer one day.
Gallant was on his first day release at a Learning Together conference set up to help rehabilitate prisoners when the attack took place in the Fishmongers’ Hall next to London Bridge last November.
The convicted terrorist Khan, 28, had also been invited to the event as a rehabilitating offender out on licence, despite being jailed in 2012 for planning to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
After Khan produced two knives and attacked conference co-ordinators Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, Gallant was handed an ornamental 5ft narwhal tusk from a wall to use as a weapon and chased the terrorist on to the bridge, where Khan was shot dead by police.
Afterwards, Gallant said he “didn’t hesitate” to confront Khan. In a statement he said: “I could tell something was wrong and had to help. I saw injured people. Khan was stood in the foyer with two large knives in his hands. He was a clear danger to all.”
Merritt’s father David, 55, of Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, said: “Steve fully deserves this pardon, or reduction in sentence. It is fantastic. He was very close to Jack and he turned his life around and reformed. I am really pleased for him.”
Gallant and Merritt had met previously through Jack’s role at rehabilitation service Learning Together in 2016. Merritt had mentored Gallant behind bars, and Gallant has described him as a “role model and friend”.
Referring to his conviction for murder, Gallant said: “It is right I was handed a severe penalty for my actions. Once I’d accepted my punishment, I decided to seek help. When you go to prison, you lose control of your life. Bettering yourself becomes one of the few things you can do while reducing the existing burden on society.”
Neil Hudgell, Gallant’s solicitor, said: “Steve feels a debt of gratitude to all those who helped him to achieve a royal prerogative of mercy. He is passionate about using his knowledge and experiences to help others steer away from crime.”
The last murderer to be given a royal pardon was former IRA leader and police informer Sean O’Callaghan, who was freed nearly 25 years ago.