The British government has ruled it will not extradite alleged hacker Gary McKinnon to the US, citing mental health risks. McKinnon is accused of accessing American government computers without risk.
The ruling by Home Secretary Theresa May ends a 10 year legal row. A previous administrations had given the extradition the go-ahead. McKinnon’s lawyers initially argued that he had the right to be tried in the UK where he allegedly committed the offenses, but this argument failed.
They then turned their attention to McKinnon’s health condition. He suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and the lawyers argued that being taken to the US and facing a prison sentence of up to 60 years created a genuinely enhanced risk of suicide.
After reviewing the case, May agreed that this risk was genuine and that under the Human Rights Act she was forced to conclude the risk outweighed the legal requirements for extradition. This marks the first time the UK has blocked an extradition to the United States since the current treaty between the two countries took effect.
McKinnon may now face prosecution in the UK where he would face a much lighted maximum sentence. He admits accessing 97 US government computers, claiming he did so to find evidence of UFO activity being covered up. He denies claims that his access caused $800,000 of damage to the systems. There is some question about exactly how much of McKinnon’s activities involved pro-active hacking and how much he was able to access without security challenges.
The case may prove a significant point in international law. May said she now wants to change British law so that if a person is accused of an offense overseas but could be prosecuted in the UK as well, a British court can block the extradition “in the interests of justice.”