Cambridge vice chancellor defends prisoner-student scheme at centre of London ...

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The vice chancellor of Cambridge University has defended the prisoner education programme at whose conference two victims of Friday's terror attack were killed.

Former students Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were fatally stabbed by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were both supporting.

The attack unfolded at a five-year celebratory conference for Learning Together, a scheme run by Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology to allow prisoners and criminology academics to meet.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today this morning, Professor Stephen Toope, the vice chancellor of Cambridge, declined to say whether the programme would continue following the atrocity.

He said both academics who set up the scheme, Cambridge professors Ruth Armstrong and Amy Ludlow, were at the event in London's Fishmonger's Hall when Khan started his knife attack. 

Professor Stephen Toope has defended the work of the programme which was working with London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan

Khan was attending a celebratory session of the programme when he started his attack and killed co-coordinator Jack Merritt and volunteer Saskia Jones

Professor Stephen Toope (left) has defended the work of the programme which was working with London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan. Khan (right) was attending a celebratory session of the programme when he started his attack and killed co-coordinator Jack Merritt and volunteer Saskia Jones

The photograph posted online during the Cambridge University prisoner rehabilitation group at Fishmongers' Hall at which Khan unleashed the attack

The photograph posted online during the Cambridge University prisoner rehabilitation group at Fishmongers' Hall at which Khan unleashed the attack 

He insisted the scheme had been held up as an example of 'best practice' by a 2016 review of prison education.

Prof Toope said: 'We're really not thinking about the future but I will say this is a programme that's been in existence for five years. It's done extremely good work.

'This is a dreadful, horrible and tragic situation but we must put it in a context of five years extraordinary work.' 

Prof Toope insisted that risk assessments had been carried out by the university, the Ministry of Justice and the Probation Service ahead of Friday's event and other events held by the programme.

Last year, the scheme awarded four £5,000 bursaries to allow previous and current prisoners to study for an undergraduate certificate in higher education.

Learning Together was set up in 2014 by University of Cambridge academics Ruth Armstrong (right) and Amy Ludlow (left) from the Faculty of Law and Institute of Criminology

Learning Together was set up in 2014 by University of Cambridge academics Ruth Armstrong (right) and Amy

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