High Court Demands Action Over Gary McKinnon Extradition Case

Gary McKinnon hacker
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Two judges have given medical experts 28 days to report on hacker McKinnon’s psychological state pending his extradition appeal

The ten year ordeal for hacker Gary McKinnon is coming to an end after a High Court judge ruled that the case for extraditing him to the US must come to an end before summer.

McKinnon is under threat of extradition for seven counts of hacking into NASA and Pentagon computers between 1 February, 2001, and 19 March, 2002. The litigants claim he caused $700,000 (£445,000) of damage – a claim the self-confessed hacker disputes, saying he was only looking for evidence of contact between extra-terrestrial beings and the US authorities.

Suicide risk

The Home Office suspended the extradition process in 2010 pending reports of McKinnon’s claim to be suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and a suicide risk. This is a form of autism that could explain his obsession with extra-terrestrials and his subsequent behaviour. If the two medical experts assessing his state of mind find him to be in danger of being suicidal if he is sent to the US for trial, it would nullify the proceedings.

Lord Justice Richards (pictured) and Mr Justice Cranston, sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice last Friday, said that a medical report must be forthcoming within the next 28 days. McKinnon’s legal team will then have a similar time to comment on its findings.

If, however, the report concurs with the defence councel’s assertion that McKinnon is at risk, Home Secretary Theresa May will have grounds to halt the extradition under the Convention on Human Rights Act. This would save the country the expense of the planned extradition appeal hearing in July.

McKinnon has been under stress since he was first accused of hacking and damages. In 2002, the US courts indicted him for the crimes but it was not until 2004 that extradition proceedings began for what they described as “the biggest military hack of all time”.

The delay between indictment and extradition meant that McKinnon was to be judged under the controversial 2003 Extradition Act. Despite a ruling last October that the Act was “fair and balanced”, this is already being reassessed because some Members of Parliament still see it as one-sided. They argue that a US citizen hacking British military systems may not be so easily extradited.

The case has been rattling around the British courts since then. McKinnon appealed an extradition order in 2006 and a complication was added in 2008 when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. The Home Secretary suspended proceedings in 2010 pending medical reports.