Disabled hacker fails in latest bid to avoid extradition


Disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon has failed in his final UK legal bid to avoid extradition to the USA.

McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome has been refused permission to appeal to Britain’s new supreme court.

His lawyers had wanted to appeal against the high court’s refusal to grant a judicial review of the decision by Jacqui Smith, the former home secretary, to extradite him.

But the high court decided his case did not raise any legal issues of “general public importance”.

His only hopes now are finally to persuade Smith’s successor, Alan Johnson, to intervene in the case, or to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Johnson has given McKinnon’s legal team a fortnight to make further “representations”.

McKinnon, from Wood Green, north London, faces a trial for allegedly hacking into US defense department computer systems, and a possible sentence of 60 years in prison if convicted in the US.

His legal team have argued that he should be prosecuted in the UK, and that the extradition would breach his human rights due to its probable effect on his mental health.

After the latest ruling, his mother, Janis Sharp, delivered a furious attack on Gordon Brown.

She drew parallels with the prime minister’s apology last month for the 1954 suicide of the computer scientist Alan Turing, who is also believed to have had Asperger’s.

She said: “So, Gordon, if you apologised for Alan Turing’s suicide, are you just going to wait until Gary commits suicide and apologise for his?”

McKinnon’s solicitor, Karen Todner, accused the UK and US governments of “the wholesale destruction and bullying of a small individual”.

She said the effect on McKinnon of the continuing legal proceedings and the threat of extradition had been “devastating”.

She said: “He is a highly vulnerable man in a very fragile state and this is a huge blow to him and his family.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, which has supported McKinnon’s campaign, said: “We are very disappointed by today’s decision and feel hugely sympathetic towards Gary and his family, who have been living under extreme stress for some time.”

He said that people with Asperger’s are often “much more vulnerable than appearances would suggest” and can be “highly susceptible to additional mental health problems”.

12 October 2009