New government gives hope to McKinnon


Lawyers for disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon have welcomed the new home secretary’s decision to seek more time to consider his case.

His legal team had been due in the high court later this month to ask it to rule on whether the previous government was right to refuse to halt his extradition to the United States.

But after receiving a letter from McKinnon’s lawyers, Conservative home secretary Theresa May agreed to seek an adjournment of the case. 

The new coalition government also announced a review of extradition law – including the much-criticised extradition treaty between the US and the UK.

Karen Todner, McKinnon’s solicitor, had called on the new coalition government to honour statements it made in opposition and prevent his extradition.

Among the Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians who criticised the Labour government’s failure to stop the extradition were the prime minister, David Cameron, and the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

Others include Chris Grayling, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, and Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary.

If extradited, McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, faces a trial for allegedly hacking into US defense department computer systems, and a possible prison sentence of 60 years if convicted.

Todner said she hoped the home secretary’s decision to seek more time to consider the case was “a signal of a more compassionate and caring home secretary and one that is willing to defend the rights of our citizens”.  

In November, the then home secretary Alan Johnson decided the extradition could go ahead after considering new evidence relating to McKinnon’s mental health, which suggested he was highly likely to try to kill himself if extradited.

He told MPs at the time that extraditing McKinnon would not breach his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The high court was due to consider whether Johnson should have halted the extradition in the light of the new evidence.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The home secretary has considered the proposal from Gary McKinnon’s legal team and has agreed an adjournment should be sought.”

20 May 2010