Home secretary refuses again to halt disabled hacker’s extradition


Outraged campaigners have attacked the home secretary’s latest refusal to halt the extradition of disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States.

Alan Johnson had been considering new evidence relating to McKinnon’s mental health, which suggested he was highly likely to try to kill himself if extradited.

Johnson said he had “carefully considered” the new evidence, but was “clear” that it was “not materially different” from evidence already considered by the high court.

He said the new evidence did not show that extraditing McKinnon – who has Asperger’s syndrome – would breach his human rights.

He added: “If Mr McKinnon’s human rights would be breached, I must stop the extradition. If they would not be breached, the extradition must go ahead.”

McKinnon’s lawyers are now likely to seek a judicial review of Johnson’s latest decision, and if that fails could also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR) condemned the home secretary’s decision.

The charity said many disabled people had been in touch to express their “outrage” at a decision that “flies in the face of justice and human rights”.

David Stocks, RADAR’s empowerment manager, who has a mental health condition, said: “This really is a matter of life or death; the strain on Gary McKinnon’s mental health is both unbelievable and inhuman.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, which has provided emergency care for McKinnon – detailed in the new evidence – said: “We are bitterly disappointed by the home secretary’s decision and feel hugely sympathetic towards Gary and his family, who have now been living under extreme stress for a prolonged period of time.”

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

Johnson said he had “received assurances” that McKinnon’s mental health needs would be met in the US and that he would not serve any part of any sentence in a maximum security prison.

If McKinnon was convicted, he said, the government would process an application to serve his sentence in the UK “at the very earliest opportunity”.

30 November 2009