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Hacker McKinnon’s extradition decision delayed until after ‘all-consuming’ Olympic games

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The home secretary, Theresa May, has delayed until October any announcement on whether to extradite the computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the US

Home Office lawyers told the high court in London on Tuesday that the delay was needed because of May’s “all-consuming involvement in the Olympic security” and her preference to announce the final decision when parliament was sitting.

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Two high court judges said a hearing for a full judicial review of that decision would be “pencilled in” for late November. The judicial review hearing could be unusual in that medical experts may be called to give oral evidence in court.

Janis Sharp, his mother, said the further delay was “morally wrong” as McKinnon, 46, could not cope any longer after a 10-year campaign against his extradition. “She should have a little bit of compassion and make a decision now. It is absolutely ruining everybody’s life. She could make a decision before the Olympics.”

Sharp said he had been recently examined by four leading psychiatric experts: “The evidence is there. He is unfit for trial and a considerable suicide risk. It is wrong. It is morally wrong.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “This is a complex case, in a complex area of the law, and a large amount of material has been submitted, some of it relatively recently. The home secretary needs to consider all the material carefully before making a decision.”

A spokesman for Liberty, the human rights campaign, said: “Gary McKinnon’s ordeal has gone on for 10 years and taught Britain how vulnerable everyone is to being dragged across the Atlantic when justice could be better done here at home. “This decision cannot be passed to yet another expert. We need the home secretary to exercise compassion and parliament to put a little common sense back into the Extradition Act.”

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The court heard that McKinnon’s family had declined the home secretary’s personal request for a further medical examination.

May is reported to be “personally concerned” that McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has not been examined by a Home Office-appointed medical assessor to determine whether there is a risk of suicide if he is extradited.

McKinnon, from north London, could face up to 60 years in jail if he is convicted in a US court. He has admitted hacking into US military computers but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

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The deadline for his family’s response to the request for a medical examination passed on 19 July.

McKinnon’s mother said last week he had “no choice” but to refuse because the expert the Home Office had named to carry out the examination, Prof Thomas Fahy, had no experience of Asperger’s syndrome. “It is not a refusal: he had no choice. It is an impossibility because the assessment they want him to have is by someone who has no experience and wouldn’t be able to diagnose his suicide risk,” Sharp told BBC Three Counties Radio.

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McKinnon had three medical examinations in April by three experts in Asperger’s and suicidal risk: Prof Simon Baron Cohen, Prof Jeremy Turk and Dr Jan Vermeulen. They concluded he was at extreme risk of suicide if extradited, and that he was unfit for trial.

At the last high court hearing, on 5 July, the Home Office said May was “close” to making a decision on the case. The judges heard that the view of two psychiatric experts – Fahy and Prof Declan Murphy – was that the risk of suicide was “moderate”.

But Vermeulen asserted for the first time that McKinnon was unfit to stand trial. Counsel for the home secretary said there was lack of supporting evidence for that view, but a fresh examination could lead to a resolution of the differing views.

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© Guardian News and Media 2012

[Computer hacker via Shutterstock]


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