Boris Johnson was “wrong” to use the language he did after the London Bridge terror attack, a Welsh Conservative election candidate has said.
Two people were killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan on Friday.
The prime minister blamed Khan’s early release from jail on legislation introduced by a “leftie government”.
Welsh Conservative election candidate Fay Jones said the prime minister should not have used the terrorist incident “as a political exercise”.
After Mr Johnson called for longer sentences and an end to automatic release, David Merritt – whose son Jack was one of the victims – said he would not wish his death “to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences”.
Speaking in the BBC Wales Live election debate in Wrexham on Tuesday, Ms Jones said: “I don’t think the prime minister or anybody should be using this as a political exercise.”
Asked if Mr Johnson was wrong, she replied: “Yes, he was.”
Mr Johnson has denied claims he was politicising the attack, saying he had campaigned against early release for some time, having previously raised the issue during his 2012 campaign to be mayor of London.
“I feel, as everybody does, a huge amount of sympathy for the loss of Jack Merritt’s family, and indeed for all the relatives of Jack and Saskia, who perished at London Bridge,” he said.
“But be in no doubt, I’ve campaigned against early release and against short sentences for many years.”
Khan had served half of his sentence and the prime minister claimed scrapping early release would have stopped him.
Mr Johnson blamed Khan’s release on legislation introduced under “a leftie government”, insisting the automatic release scheme was introduced by Labour.
However, he has been challenged about what the Conservatives had done to change the law over the past 10 years in government.
Labour’s David Hanson, a former policing and counter-terrorism minister, said the police had struggled following a reduction in the number of officers and he had concerns about the probation service.
“We need to have the 40% cut that was taken to the probation service put back in place because that’s one of the issues that’s led to the high risk on this particular case and others,” he said.
Brexit Party MEP Nathan Gill said it was “bonkers” that convicted terrorists were being released early.
“If you plot mass murder of people, a terrorist attack, I want to see you go to jail for your whole life,” he said.
“I do not understand that when the death penalty was taken away. We were told life would mean life, and now people serve just five or ten years and then they’re let out.”
Politicisation of terror attacks like London Bridge was wrong, said Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth, “because it affects every one of us”.
“These are our communities”, he said, “intolerance between different groups is something we should all condemn”.
When pressed on whether Khan should have been released, Mr ap Iorwerth stressed each case was different.
Liberal Democrat Steffan John also criticised the prime minister.
“It was clear that Boris did play games on this and he saw an advantage,” he said.
“We have people risking their lives and showing their bravery and he’s essentially dodging questions and avoiding stepping up to the plate and answering interviews.”