Disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon has won the latest round in his legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States.
A high court judge has ruled that there should be a judicial review of home secretary Alan Johnson’s failure to halt the extradition.
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.
In November, 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.
Johnson told MPs at the time that extraditing him would not breach his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The high court will now consider whether the home secretary should have halted the extradition in the light of the new evidence.
Janis Sharp, Gary’s mother, said: “I can’t believe it. Some common sense at last. This judge has made such an honourable and decent decision.” But she said her son’s health had “badly declined”.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, which has assessed and provided emergency care for McKinnon, said they were “delighted” that he had won the right to a judicial review.
He said that people with Asperger’s syndrome are “often much more vulnerable than appearances would suggest and can be highly susceptible to additional mental health problems”.
He added: “In light of the medical evidence, we have been very concerned for Gary’s health and well-being and it is a relief that the judge has made this decision.”
Karen Todner, McKinnon’s solicitor, urged Johnson to review his decision, and appealed to US President Barack Obama to withdraw the application for extradition.
She added: “Mr McKinnon’s suffering has gone on long enough.”
The hearing is expected to take place in April or May.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We note the court’s decision to grant permission to Mr McKinnon for a further judicial review.
“This means that there will be a substantive hearing on a date to be arranged by the court.
“As the case is before the courts, we do not propose, pending the outcome, to comment further.”
14 January 2010