Lawyers move to delay hacker McKinnon's extradition to US

Lawyers acting for British computer hacker Gary McKinnon are planning to delay his extradition to America despite...

Lawyers acting for British computer hacker Gary McKinnon are planning to delay his extradition to America despite a ruling by the Law Lords today.

Five Law Lords unanimously ruled this morning that a US extradition order should stand. But McKinnon's solicitor, Karen Todner, of Kaim Todner, said, "Following this judgement, we will be taking this case to the European Court of Human Rights."

She said she was hoping to halt his immediate removal to the US. "The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable."

"We believe that the British government declined to prosecute him to enable the US government to make an example of him."

After the judgement was handed down in the House of Lords, the Law Lords published their reasoning for dismissing McKinnon's appeal against extradition.

American prosecutors alleged that McKinnon, 42, an unemployed computer systems administrator, gained unauthorised access to 97 computers belonging variously to the US army, navy, air force and NASA between February 2001 and March 2002. He then allegedly scanned 73,000 US government computers looking for others susceptible to similar compromise.

McKinnon argued that there was an "abuse of process" because he was threatened with eight to 10 years in a US high security jail with possible remission for only 15% of the time if he resisted extradition.

He was offered a "plea bargain" in which he was told that he would probably serve three to four years, of which six to 12 months would be served in a low security US prison, after which he would likely be allowed to be transferred to jail in the UK and released after serving only half the sentence.

An opinion written by Lord Brown of Eaton-Under-Heywood, endorsed by the other four Law Lords in the case, said, "Did the US prosecuting authority here 'attempt to interfere with the due process of the court? Did it place 'undue pressure'?

"Would the appellant following extradition be paying an 'unconscionable price' having insisted on his rights under English law?"

"I would unhesitatingly answer all of them in the negative."

"It would only be in a wholly extreme case," he added, "that the court should properly regard any encouragement to accused persons to surrender for trial and plead guilty as so unconscionable as to constitute an abuse of process justifying the requested state's refusal to extradite the accused."

"It is difficult, indeed, to think of anything other than the threat of unlawful action which could fairly be said so to imperil the integrity of the extradition process as to require the accused to be discharged irrespective of the strength of the case against him."

Law Lords dismiss appeal of hacker McKinnon >>

Interview with Computer Weekly: Hacking US military systems was child's play, says Gary McKinnon >>

Read more on IT legislation and regulation