Government move holds out hope on extradition for disabled hacker


The government has given the first sign that it could reconsider its decision to extradite disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States.

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

But home secretary Alan Johnson has told McKinnon’s legal team that he has suspended the 14-day deadline for them to apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) while he considers new evidence they have submitted.

On 12 October, McKinnon’s lawyers sent the Home Office a lengthy submission containing detailed evidence that aims to show the risk to his mental health if he is extradited.

His lawyers would normally have 14 days to apply for an ECHR hearing, but the Home Office has suspended that deadline while it considers the new evidence.

McKinnon’s only hopes of avoiding extradition are to appeal to the ECHR or to persuade Johnson to intervene in the case.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Once the high court rejected his application [to appeal to the supreme court]a 14-day window of opportunity begins, during which he can appeal to the ECHR.

“What has happened now is we are considering that submission from his lawyers and the 14-day period has not yet begun.”

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.

19 October 2009