Liberty welcomes Home Secretary’s decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon to US

16 October 2012

Today Liberty welcomed the Home Secretary’s long-overdue announcement that Gary McKinnon will not face extradition to the US.

Gary has been charged with hacking into US Pentagon and NASA computer systems between 1999 and 2002. He has Asperger’s syndrome and Liberty and his lawyers have long argued that – as the crime was committed on British soil – a British judge should decide if he should face justice here in the UK.

Now after a decade-long ordeal Theresa May has halted Gary’s extradition – on the grounds that it would be incompatible with his human rights. Her decision comes after a report by Home Office-appointed psychiatrists warned that Gary would very likely attempt suicide if sent for trial across the Atlantic. The US had wanted to prosecute him on charges that could have resulted in a 60-year prison sentence.

The Home Secretary also announced that the law would be changed to introduce the “Forum Bar”. Liberty has long called for this reform. This means British courts will be allowed to bar extradition where the alleged conduct has taken place in whole or in part in the UK and it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: “This is a great day for rights, freedoms and justice in the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary has spared this vulnerable man the cruelty of being sent to the US and accepted Liberty’s long-standing argument for change to our rotten Extradition laws.

“Extradition should prevent fugitives escaping – not allow for Britons like Gary to be parcelled off around the world based on allegations of offences committed here at home.

“This campaign, led by Gary’s fearless mother, united lawyers, politicians, press and public from across the spectrum in the cause of compassion and common sense.”

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Both the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee and the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights have recently published highly critical reports calling for urgent overhaul of the UK’s unfair extradition arrangements with the US. While in Opposition in 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined Gary McKinnon’s mother at a protest for her son. “It is simply a question of doing the right thing,” Mr Clegg wrote in the Daily Mail that summer. “It is certainly wrong to send a vulnerable young man to his fate in the United States when he could and should be tried here.” And in July 2009 Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Gary McKinnon is a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to face trial … If he has questions to answer, there is a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court.” Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats committed to reform of our extradition laws while in Opposition.

2. Liberty’s Extradition Watch campaign demands:

- That a person should not be sent to stand trial in a foreign court without a basic case being presented in a British court;

- If the crime is alleged to have occurred in whole or part in the UK, then extradition should not occur if a British court decides it is not in the interests of justice to extradite;

- A person in the UK should not be extradited for something that is not a crime in the UK;

- For more information on Liberty’s Extradition Watch campaign please visit: www.extraditionwatch.co.uk