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Judges grant McKinnon extradition review

Gimme shelter

Judges have granted a review of the Home Secretary's decision to continue with extradition proceedings against Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon.

The decision - by Lord Justice Maurice Key and Mr Justice Simon - places a judicial block on attempts to haul McKinnon over to the US on hacking offences, irrespective of whether UK prosecutors decide to press charges in Britain. In a statement issued on Friday, McKinnon's lawyers Kaim Todner welcomed the decision, pointing out that even though McKinnon took his appeal against extradition all the way up to the House of Lords, no court has considered the impact of extradition in light of McKinnon's recent diagnosis with Asperger's syndrome.

Since his diagnosis, autism experts have expressed concern over whether the 43-year-old could handle extradition, let alone the likelihood of trial and imprisonment in the US. It's unclear whether the Home Office has obtained promises that McKinnon would be immediately repatriated to the UK after any prospective US trial, assurance obtained at the last minute in the case of the NatWest Three, who were extradited to the US in 2006.

McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp said: "We are overjoyed that the British courts have shown sense and compassion by allowing our son Gary, a young man with Asperger's syndrome, this judicial review. We have always been outraged by the Home Office's decision to allow him to be extradited to stand trail in a foreign land where he would face an out of proportion sentence for what's essentially a crime of eccentricity."

McKinnon's lawyers submitted a written confession over hacking charges to UK prosecutors last month.

A decision on what to do on this is expected within a week. McKinnon's mum is hopeful of a favourable outcome. "We also have high hopes for a just outcome on the decision to be made by Keir Starmar, the director of public prosecutions, on whether Gary can be tried in the UK."

McKinnon faces a seven-count US indictment alleging that he broke into 97 US government, NASA and military systems in the course of a year-long computer cracking spree that ran between 2001 and 2002. ®

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