House of Lords battle to stop future Gary McKinnons

04 November 2009

Today the House of Lords will have the opportunity to prevent situations like Gary McKinnon's reoccurring. An amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill would allow British judges to bar extradition if a significant part of the crime happened in the UK.

The amendment would bring into force provisions that have been on the statute book for over three years.

First introduced in the Police and Justice Bill 2006, the provisions passed the House of Lords but were resisted by the Government when the Bill returned to the Commons. By introducing a ‘killing clause’ - whereby the clauses would only come into force after a resolution by both Houses - the Government made it clear that they never intended to honour Parliament’s intentions in enacting this law.

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said:

“No one should be parcelled off to Europe, the US or anywhere else in the world without good reason. If a crime is thought to have been committed in the UK then a British court should be allowed to refuse extradition.

This amendment would go some way to protecting people from being hauled off to a foreign land without the bare minimum of British justice being seen to be done.”

Gary McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been charged with hacking into the US Pentagon and NASA systems between 1999 and 2002, an offence which was committed from his computer at home in London. Had the provisions from the Police and Justice Act 2006 been in force it is likely that extradition to the US would have been refused.

Liberty argues that where conduct constituting a crime occurs in the UK then a British court should be allowed to refuse extradition if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Contact Mairi Clare Rodgers on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128 NOTES TO EDITORS 1. Liberty’s report stage briefing on extradition in the Policing and Crime Bill in the House of Lords can be found here: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy-09/liberty-s-report-stage-briefing-on-policing-and-crime-extradition-forum.pdf  2. The Attorney-General has advised Peers that the proposed forum amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill would put the UK in breach of its bilateral treaty obligations. However, a Joint Legal Opinion from Edward Fitzgerald QC of Doughty Street Chambers and Julian Knowles of Matrix Chambers obtained by Liberty states otherwise and can be found here http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy-09/fitzgerald-and-knowles-advice.pdf  3. The amendment, which would bring into force amendments that were originally passed in the Police and Justice Act 2006, reads as follows. These amendments provide: “A person's extradition to … (“the requesting territory”) is barred by reason of forum if (and only if) it appears that:

(a) a significant part of the conduct alleged to constitute the extradition offence is conduct in the United Kingdom, and

(b) in view of that and all the other circumstances, it would not be in the interests of justice for the person to be tried for the offence in the requesting territory.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) the judge must take into account whether the relevant prosecution authorities in the United Kingdom have decided not to take proceedings against the person in respect of the conduct in question.

4. If this amendment had already been in place, it is quite likely that a British court would have barred Gary McKinnon’s extradition because the conduct occurred in the UK and, due to Mr McKinnon’s diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, it would likely not have been in the interests of justice for him to be tried in the US where he would face possible long-term imprisonment.