The convicted murderer who helped foil the terror attack on London Bridge last November armed only with a narwhal tusk will see his sentence cut following an intervention by the Queen.
Steven Gallant, 42, was on day release at the event for reformed prisoners in Fishmonger’s Hall when he helped end Usman Khan’s rampage, which left two Cambridge graduates dead.
Jack Merrit, 25, and 23-year-old Saskia Jones – both part of the Learning Together scheme to help prisoners access education – were killed, while several others were wounded.
Mr Gallant was pictured on the bridge tackling Khan with the whale trophy, slowing him down and preventing him from killing anyone else until police arrived and shot him dead.
The Queen has decided to grant Mr Merrit the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, which will see 10 months knocked off his sentence and mean he is eligible to go in front of parole board next June, which would be expected to rubber-stamp his freedom.
It was Gallant’s first time out on licence after being jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years in 2005 for the murder of a firefighter in Hull.
He helped restrain Khan, who was wearing fake suicide vest and armed with two knives, before the terrorist was shot dead by police.
The Ministry of Justice revealed on Saturday that the Queen had employed the little used ‘Royal Prerogative of Mercy’ to bring Gallant’s case before the parole board 10 months early.
The monarch used the power on the advice of Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘The Lord Chancellor has granted Steven Gallant a Royal Prerogative of Mercy reducing his minimum tariff of 10 months in recognition of his exceptionally brave actions at Fishmongers’ Hall, which helped save people’s lives despite the tremendous risk to his own.’
The final decision ultimately rests with the parole board, but it is highly unlikely Gallant will be denied his freedom.
It is understood he has been a model prisoner who has expressed remorse for his crimes and has not faced any punishment or loss of privileges for the past 10 years.
Jack Merritt’s father David, 55, welcomed the news.
He told the Daily Mirror: ‘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 has also participated in a number of interventions, including addressing previous substance abuse, and is in the process of studying for a business degree.
He was one of two men convicted of the murder of Barrie Jackson, 33, who was beaten to death outside a pub in Hull.
The pair lay in wait for Mr Jackson outside the Dolphin after believing he attacked Gallant’s girlfriend.
Jackson was sprayed with CS gas and beaten so savagely with a hammer by a group of men that paramedics were unable to find his mouth.
The previous year, Jackson had himself been cleared of the attempted murder of a 64-year-old woman – stamping on her face and dumping her unconscious in a skip. He was convicted of assault.
Jackson’s student son Jack, 21, told the Mirror: ‘In my mind, Gallant has nearly done his time and if someone has undergone rehabilitation and change, which it seems he has, then it’s fair enough.’
‘I didn’t hesitate’: How Gallant heroically intervened during Khan’s terror attack
Gallant spoke publicly in January about Khan’s rampage – saying he heard noises downstairs at Fishmongers’ Hall and went to investigate despite ‘orders to stay in the conference hall’.
In a statement issued through his lawyers, he said: ‘I could tell something was wrong and had to help. I saw injured people.’
Khan had fatally stabbed the two former Cambridge University students.
Gallant continued: ‘Khan was stood in the foyer with two large knives in his hands. He was a clear danger to all, so I didn’t hesitate.’
Using a chair and narwhal tusk handed to him by civil servant Darryn Frost, who revealed last month how he had also risked his life to take on the attacker, Gallant tried to hold Khan back.
He said: ‘Khan also showed us the bomb around his waist in an attempt to frighten us. We then chased him on to London Bridge and restrained him until the police arrived.’
Gallant and James Gilligan were jailed for carrying out a revenge attack on 33-year-old ex-fireman Mr Jackson.
The pair lay in wait for Mr Jackson outside a pub after believing he attacked Gallant’s girlfriend.
He is thought to have been bludgeoned with a hammer, kicked and punched to death, according to a 2008 Court of Appeal judgment which dismissed Gallant’s application to quash the conviction.
But since going to prison, Gallant has ‘vowed never to turn to violence again’.
Instead he learnt to read and write and is now in his third year of a business studies degree.
He has co-written several plays, one of which was recently performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London, his lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors said.
Gallant said: ‘Nobody has the right to take another’s life and I offer my sincere apologies to my victim’s family for the hurt caused.
‘I can never bring that life back, and it is right that 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. Your own future relies on the decisions of others. Bettering yourself becomes one of the few things you can do while reducing the existing burden on society.’
Inspired by the Learning Together project after he met the founders, Gallant applied to take part from behind bars.
As part of the programme he has worked with a team of students in Cambridge producing legal advice guides and has become a mentor.
Losing course co-ordinators Mr Merritt and Miss Jones is an ‘unbearable blow’ and the ‘sense of loss is immense’, he said.
Mr Merritt, who Gallant met in 2016, was a ‘role model and friend’, he said, adding: ‘Jack didn’t care who you were, he cared about you and your future, he saw who you could become and did not define you by your past. I will miss him badly.’
Miss Jones was ‘highly respected and loved’ by those involved with the course, he added.
Gallant has resolved to ‘keep doing positive things’ and was ‘certain’ the pair would wish for the programme to continue.
Although initially reluctant to speak out, Gallant decided to come forward after Ministry of Justice employee Mr Frost revealed how he took on Khan.
Gallant said: ‘I would like to say a special thanks to Darryn.
‘Had he not passed me the narwhal tusk at that crucial moment, not only could I have been killed, the situation could have been even worse.’
Reformed prisoner John Crilly was also among those who fought the London Bridge terrorist – in his case, with a fire extinguisher.
Mr Crilly told of how he was ‘prepared to die’ to save other people’s lives.
He initially attacked Khan with a lectern as the fanatic stabbed staff at a prisoner rehabilitation conference. After the lectern snapped in half, he tried to batter Khan with a chair.
Mr Crilly, 48, then grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall and sprayed foam at the fake suicide vest Khan was wearing.
The ex-convict told of how he tackled him while he still believed he was wearing a suicide vest and said: ‘I was screaming at him to blow it. I was prepared to lose my life.’
Mr Crilly, who served 13 years in prison for murder before his sentence was reduced to manslaughter, claims the police ‘took their time’ in deciding to shoot the terrorist, causing him to shout ‘shoot him’.