The father of one of the two victims of the terrorist attack, David Merritt, told the Daily Mirror that the pardon was “fully” deserved. He had changed his life in prison, Mr Merritt said, and was close to his son. Mr. Gallant called Jack Merritt a role model and friend.
The Queen can exercise a “royal prerogative of mercy,” which reduces the penalty for a criminal offense, but rarely does so. Early release pardons are generally recommended by officials in exceptional situations, for example if an inmate puts their safety at risk to avoid death or serious injury to another.
Although the Queen signs the royal pardon, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the government – in this case the Department of Justice – said Dickie Arbiter, a former spokesperson for Buckingham Palace. “By the time that gets to him, it’s a done deal,” he said. “She just stamps it.
Although he was not aware of the decision making, Mr Arbiter said Mr Gallant risked his own life while out of jail for the day to protect others, which would have probably helped his case. “He could have just walked away and ignored her, but he didn’t.
The pardons given to those convicted of murder are very unusual. Before Mr Gallant, the last major pardon for murder was granted to Sean O’Callaghan, a paramilitary member of the Irish Republican Army who was released in 1996.