Gary McKinnon gets new court date in extradition marathon

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon will return to court in May to hear whether the home secretary was right to allow his extradition to the US to face charges of hacking US federal and military computers.

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon will return to court in May to hear whether the home secretary was right to allow his extradition to the US to face charges of hacking US federal and military computers.

McKinnon, who was first arrested in 2002, has admitted to hacking thousands of Pentagon computers in search of material on unidentified flying objects he believed the US military was hiding.

If convicted in the US, Mckinnon faces up to 70 years in jail. If tried and found guilty in the UK he might serve a much shorter term. McKinnon has said he is content to be tried in the UK, but fears being treated as a terrorist if tried and convicted in the US.

McKinnon's legal team has argued, so far unsuccessfully, against extradition in every court available to it in the UK and Europe. The latest hearing stems from a High Court decision to review whether the home secretary fully considered evidence that McKinnon suffers from Asperger's syndrome, an autistic condition.

McKinnon, who has suffered deteriorating mental health as the legal process has gone on, is said to be suicidal.

His cause has been taken up by a number of celebrities and MPs, at least one of whom quit parliament over the allegedly one-sided extradition treaty between the US and UK.

The treaty was ratified by the US on 26 April 2007, several years after the US asked for McKinnon. At the time the Home Office said the treaty redressed the unequal balance that required the US to show a prima facie evidential case in support of extradition requests made to the UK, whereas the UK merely had to demonstrate "probable cause" in asking for a suspect to be extradited.

It also expanded the scope of extraditable crimes to include "twenty-first-century crimes", such as child internet pornography, which were not extraditable offences under the old arrangements.

Extraditions are considered only in cases where a guilty verdict is likely to lead to a jail term of at least 12 months.

Background to the Gary McKinnon case >>

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