Hacker McKinnon to stay while DPP considers a UK trial

Self-confessed hacker Gary...

Self-confessed hacker Gary McKinnon will stay in the UK for the next month while the director of public prosecutions (DPP) considers whether to try him here.

This morning the High Court postponed until Friday judgement on its judicial review of the government's decision to permit McKinnon's extradition to the US on hacking charges.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has meanwhile undertaken not to extradite McKinnon before the DPP decides whether or not to prosecute him in the UK.

McKinnon's lawyers, Kaim Todner, applied last year to the High Court to delay its judicial review to give the DPP, Keir Starmer, a chance to review McKinnon's case. In a statement to the DPP, McKinnon said he admitted hacking Pentagon and Nasa computers.

If convicted in the US, McKinnon faces up to 60 years, 10 years of each count, in a high security prison. A conviction under the UK's Computer Misuse Act carries a maximum penalty of five years.

McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic condition, admitted to National High Tech Crime unit detectives that he hacked US government computers. He said he was searching for secret information about unidentified flying objects and alien energy technology.

The US alleges that McKinnon hacked Nasa and military computers in 2001 and 2002 and caused damage worth nearly $1m. McKinnon admitted hacking, but denied causing damage.

However, it took the US 39 months from McKinnon's admission to ask for his extradition. In that time, the rules governing extraditions between the UK and US changed.

Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer, said the change meant that while UK officials needed to show "probable cause" - ie, show evidence that the suspect was likely to have committed the alleged crime - there was no similar requirement on US officials.

The change in the extradition rules was brought in urgently to help fight terrorism. Since then it has been used mainly to prosecute civil and commercial suits against UK citizens. These include the Natwest Three and Nigel Potter, the boss of an online gambling firm.

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