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Home Office doc 'not qualified' to assess McKinnon suicide risk

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Computer hacker Gary McKinnon has refused to be assessed for suicide risk by a Home Office appointed doctor, because the doctor chosen had no experience of patients with Aspergers, his mother Janis Sharp told BBC local radio today.

McKinnon, who hacked into US government computers in 2002, has Asperger's syndrome. The 46 year-old Londoner has been at the centre of an extradition trial since 2006 and an assessment of his suicide risk will be a key factor in the decision to send him to the US to stand trial.

McKinnon says he hacked the US computers because he was looking for UFOs.

McKinnon had until today to agree to the assessment, which he has now refused. Speaking today to BBC's Three Counties Radio his mother said : "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."

The doctor chosen - Professor Thomas Fahy - had never assessed suicide risk in Asperger's patients before, according to Ms Sharp.

There will be a hearing on Gary McKinnon's case in the High Court on July 24th. At the last hearing on July 5th, judges were told that Home Secretary Theresa May is close to a decision but wants a further medical assessment.

Previous medical assessments in April by three doctors with experience in Aspergers, appointed by Mr MckInnon's legal team, found McKinnon to be at an extremely high risk of suicide if extradited.

Doctor Jan Vermeulen concluded after a face-to-face assessment of Gary, that he was unfit for trial, writing:

“In my opinion Mr. McKinnon is currently unfit to stand trial and if he survives the transit to the USA, he will be so traumatised that he may remain unfit to plead for a considerable period. I strongly recommend that once Mr McKinnon has recovered from his current ordeal his trial takes place in the UK,” Ms Sharp informed The Register. ®

Updated to add

A Home Office spokesman has been in touch to say: "The Home Secretary will make a decision as soon as possible - 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."

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