McKinnon's mum gives tearful thanks after government halts US extradition

The mother of Gary McKinnon thanks those who helped their 10-year campaign against a US extradition order for hacking federal computers

The mother of hacker Gary McKinnon marked the end of a traumatic chapter of their lives when she give thanks to all those who helped their 10-year campaign against a US order for his extradition to face charges for hacking federal computers.

Janis Sharp shed tears of relief and triumph at a press conference as she publicly thanked home secretary Theresa May for telling Parliament earlier she had "withdrawn" the US extradition order.

"It was a brave decision to stand up to a nation as powerful as America. We've done something for the little person and that is a considerable achievement. It's so emotional, I'm overwhelmed and incredibly happy," she told a packed room at the London offices of McKinnon's lawyers.

Congratulations were passed all round for Sharp's tireless campaigning to raise public, media and political support for her son and she was commended in Parliament. She gave her own thanks to those who had lent their support, including lawyers, rights campaigners, MPs and journalists.

"Today is a victory for compassion," said David Burrowes, McKinnon's MP.


Read more about Gary McKinnon's extradition appeal:

  • Computer hacker Gary McKinnon no al-Qaeda mastermind, say MPs
  • Obama to let UK decide on hacker McKinnon's extradition
  • McKinnon charges exaggerated by government

Earlier he had pressed Theresa May in Parliament: "Can we make a promise today, that never again will a vulnerable UK citizen have to endure a 10-year mental torture, like Gary McKinnon? And that the British principles of justice and fair play will return to extradition?"

Edward Fitzgerald QC, McKinnon's lawyer, commended Theresa May for making a brave decision but said she could not have done it without the powers granted her by the Human Rights Act.

But May told Parliament she would remove the home secretary's discretion to intervene in extradition cases under human rights law and to leave it with judges.

She would instead introduce a law that would allow people accused of crimes with dual jurisdiction - such as hackers based in one country and infiltrating another - to be prosecuted at home, if it was in the interests of justice. She warned that extradition remained important in a world where it was easy to commit cross-border crimes, either digitally or in person.

British courts had repeatedly thrown out McKinnon's pleas for the extradition process to strike a merciful balance between his minor hacking crimes and the vulnerable psychology caused by his having Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.

Fitzgerald said the government had agreed to consider what more could be done to ensure extradition orders were handled proportionately and not pursued when the burden of an extradition outweighed minor charges. The UK routinely prevents cases being brought before its own courts if it is against the public interest. But it fails to extend the same protections over British people ordered before foreign courts.

Theresa May also agreed to look into the way the police handle the arrest and laying of charges against people with autism. Campaigners say the inherent vulnerabilities of Asperger's sufferers mean they are often mistreated by society and the law.

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