McKinnon loses extradition fight at the high court

By Liz Stephens

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon has lost his case against extradition at the high court today.

Mr McKinnon, a UFO enthusiast who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome, is due to be extradited to the US for trial after hacking into Nasa and Pentagon computers.

Lawyers now have 28 days to persuade the authorities to overturn the decision.

He was challenging refusals by the home secretary and director of public prosecutions to try him in the UK.

Mr McKinnon had previously appealed unsuccessfully to the House of Lords and the European court of human rights.

Today’s judicial review in the high court is likely to be his last chance.

His supporters, who include the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and the Daily Mail newspaper, argue that he is “vulnerable”.

The hacker’s mother, Janis Sharp called him “a gentle, misguided Asperger’s sufferer”.

Speaking outside the high court, she said her son had been “naive enough to admit to computer misuse without having a lawyer and without one being present”.

“We are heartbroken. If the law says it’s fair to destroy someone’s life in this way then it’s a bad law.”

His lawyers have warned he presents a suicide risk if extradited because of the state of his mental health.

They were seeking a ruling from the high court that he could be tried in the UK because the crimes were committed in the UK.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy for human rights group Liberty, said: “Today’s court decision demonstrates the disgrace that is Britain’s extradition arrangements that allow vulnerable people to be shipped off around the world when they should be tried here at home.

“Our judges’ hands have been tied by rotten legislation that should now be overhauled by Parliament without delay.”

Tory leader David Cameron said: “I am deeply saddened and worried about the case of Gary McKinnon. I am saddened because he is clearly a vulnerable young man with a recognised medical condition.

“The Extradition Act was put in place to ensure terrorists didn’t escape justice. It was never intended to deal with a case like Gary’s.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne said: “The succession of ministers who have let this sorry saga drag on for seven long years should hang their heads in shame.

“There is no way the American Government would hang one of their citizens out to dry in the same way.

“The Government must ensure that the US-UK Extradition Treaty is repealed and that its replacement treats US and British citizens equally.”

Mr McKinnon admitted hacking into 97 US computers from his North London home in 2001 and 2002. He maintains he was looking for evidence of extra-terrestrials.

The US government claims the incident was the “biggest military hack of all time” and cost $800,000 (£487,000) to remedy.