New hope that Gary McKinnon can stay in Britain after Home Secretary agrees to reconsider medical case for extradition
Naive: Gary McKinnon faces up to 60 years in jail on charges of hacking into U.S. military computers if extradited from Britain
Gary McKinnon is to be saved from the threat of immediate extradition as early as today.
Home Secretary Theresa May believes a court case to send the vulnerable hacker to the U.S. – due to begin in a few days – should be halted.
Her intervention gives Gary – who is backed by the Daily Mail’s Affront to British Justice campaign – a vital new chance to plead the case for being dealt with in the UK.
Without it, the Asperger’s sufferer would have been extradited within weeks to a foreign jail, where it is feared he would be almost certain to take his own life.
Gary faces up to 60 years imprisonment on charges of hacking into U.S. military computers.
Psychiatrists have warned that the 44-year-old – who was looking for evidence of ‘little green men’ – will kill himself if sent to America under the ‘lopsided’ Extradition Act 2003.
A succession of Labour home secretaries had abandoned Gary to his fate despite the desperate warnings about the state of his mental health.
But after the Mail’s vigorous campaign, which was launched ten months ago and is supported by civil liberties groups, autism charities, celebrities and scores of MPs, Mrs May is understood to want a rethink.
She will now reconsider the medical case for keeping Gary here, where he has agreed to be tried for his ‘crimes’.
This reflects a request made by Gary’s legal team last week for the new Government to look at the case afresh.
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had been scathing about Labour’s decision to hang Gary out to dry.
A host of senior Tories, including David Cameron, also backed his fight.
Mrs May’s decision will be welcomed on all sides of the Commons. Many Labour MPs had voiced their disgust at Gary’s treatment.
But at this stage, it marks only a temporary reprieve for Gary.
His lawyers must overcome the Extradition Act – which makes it easier to send a Briton to the U.S. than vice versa – if they are to establish that despatching Gary would be a fundamental breach of his rights.
Judges, while sympathetic, have already ruled the risk of suicide is not a sufficient bar to removal under the Act – which the Tories have promised to review.
Hope: Home Secretary Theresa May says the case to extradite McKinnon to the U.S. should be halted while medical evidence is reexamined
Mrs May’s decision will be formally put to Gary’s legal team as early as today, under a process which requires them to agree to adjourn the court case.
The judicial review of former home secretary Alan Johnson’s refusal to intervene had been due to begin next week and was virtually a last throw of the legal dice.
If it is adjourned Mrs May can then begin formal consideration of the mountain of medical evidence that Gary is unfit to be extradited.
If it is established that he cannot be allowed to go, it opens the door to a prosecution in the UK.
The controversial case has crossed the desks of six home secretaries, prompted years of legal battles and caused untold torment for Gary and his family.
It began in 2002 when Gary – a self-confessed ‘bumbling computer nerd’ from North London – was looking for evidence of ‘little green men’.
Gary freely admits being behind the attacks but he and his supporters say the hacking was naively motivated by his eccentric search for UFOs because he has Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism that leads to obsessive behaviour.
To the Americans, however, he is a ‘cyber-terrorist’ who hacked into the security of almost 100 computers before and after the September 11 attacks.
Last night Gary’s mother Janis Sharp said: ‘Obviously, the Home Secretary reconsidering the case would be good news but we will only be happy if we are told it is all over.’
His solicitor Karen Todner, of Kaim Todner, said: ‘The legal team is extremely pleased that the Home Secretary appears to have appreciated that she is able to exercise discretion in relation to Mr McKinnon.
‘We will make further representations to her in the hope that she will stop this extradition.’
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Vulnerable? He knew what he was doing was wrong.
– Kat Anders, Singapore, 20/5/2010 03:03
Good luck to him. I wish him all the best. I hope get the help he needs.
– Dylan Calvert, London, 20/5/2010 02:53
He needs to face US justice and NOW! No more UK style moddlycoddling.
– yankee doodle dandy, somewhere usa, 20/5/2010 02:32
Surely May isn’t a fool. He and other hackers cause disruption and expense and should be stopped. He deserves the strongest sentence available.
– Chris R D, S.Yorks, 20/5/2010 01:57
Well Done to you Mrs May ! And while you’re at it tell the Americans that there will be no more extraditions until they have exactly the same arrangement on their statute book. Even better axe it along with all the other inhumane and generally loopy Labour interference in our lives.
– david steele, bangkok, 20/5/2010 01:54
Get him on the plane to the USA. He knew what he was doing at the time. He is not a child he is 44 for goodness sake. Wake up Britain.
– David, London UK, 20/5/2010 01:52
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