The verdict, when it came on Monday 5 February 2018, was a massive relief for Lauri Love, the 33-year-old student accused of hacking US government computer systems.
“A gnawing parasite that was chewing away at my soul appears to have disappeared and now I’ve got the freedom to actually plan a life properly,” he told Computer Weekly.
The Court of Appeal had made a legally important decision – that Love should be tried for hacking in the UK, where he could receive the medical attention he needs rather than face solitary confinement on “suicide watch” in the US and a prison system ill-equipped to support people with mental and physical health problems.
“It frees up my mind to concentrate fully on the things that I do: being in a loving relationship, studying for a degree and contributing towards keeping the internet cool – which is something that we’d all like,” he says.
He hopes the Court of Appeal’s ruling will open up a wider discussion on mental health and autism, and how the prison system and wider society should adapt to neurodiversity.
Love himself is highly gifted. His Asperger’s makes him think in a different way to other people.
“If what we went through will help result in a society that is more fair and accommodating, that will make me feel that what we went through was worthwhile,” he says.
As for the future, Love wants to use his computer skills – which are impressive – to benefit businesses and society.
In the run-up to the WannaCry malware attacks, which disabled swathes of the UK’s National Health Service IT systems, Love worked behind the scenes with 250 volunteers on Internet Relay Chat to dissect the code and to advise organisations how to defend against it.
“No volunteer firefighters exist to put to put out problems in cyber security. So I’d like to help contribute towards having that and eventually, hopefully, we’ll make systems so secure that there isn’t a need for volunteer assistance,” he says.
Love has a particular interest in cryptography, and could see himself working with blockchain technology to “revolutionise business practices”.
The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, strongly urged the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against Love in the UK – something that Love has always campaigned for – in the 35-page judgement issued on 5 February.
For Love, the verdict means the courts have returned to the traditional principle that people accused of wrongdoing in the UK should be tried in the UK.
“I don’t want people in the future to be facing the long battle of extradition and then be prosecuted under a regime that does not afford them the safeguards and protections that we can afford in the UK,” he says.
Interviewer: Julia Gregory; Filming: Niels Ladefoged