Home secretary blocks Gary McKinnon extradition

Home Secretaty Theresa May has told MPs that she has blocked a request for accused hacker Gary McKinnon to be extradited to the US to stand trial for computer hacking.

McKinnon, 46, was accused of hacking into 97 US government computer networks during 2001 and 2002, including those owned by NASA, the US Army, US Navy, Department of Defence and the US Air Force, resulting in an alleged $900,000 worth of damage.

While McKinnon admitted to hacking into US military networks, he has since denied causing any damage and claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs. 

Speaking in the House of Commons today, May told MPs that because McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and is “seriously ill”, extradition would increase the risk of him committing suicide and would be incompatible with his human rights.

“Mr McKinnon is accused of serious crimes. But there is also no doubt that he is seriously ill. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, and suffers from depressive illness. The legal question before me is now whether the extent of that illness is sufficient to preclude extradition,” May said.

“As the House would expect, I have very carefully considered the representations made on Mr McKinnon’s behalf, including from a number of clinicians. I have obtained my own medical advice from practitioners recommended to me by the Chief Medical Officer. And I have taken extensive legal advice.

“After careful consideration of all of the relevant material, I have concluded that Mr McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights,” she said.

May added that the 10-year case had been “difficult and exceptional”, and that it is now up to the director of public prosecutions to decide whether McKinnon can stand trial in a UK court.

McKinnon, who has previously held several IT positions within firms, admitted using a self-written Perl script and a remote access programme to access top-secret military information.

He would have faced up to 60 years in jail if he had been extradited and convicted in the US.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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