Home Secretary Defends McKinnon Extradition Decision


Alan Johnson has defended his decision to extradite hacker Gary McKinnon, claiming he needs to “face the music”

In the latest twist in the saga of Gary McKinnon, the Home Secretary has defended his decision not to block the computer hacker’s extradition to the US.

McKinnon is facing up to 60 years in jail in the US after he hacked into 97 military and NASA systems in a bid to find secret information about aliens and UFOs. The US alleged his hacking caused it to shut down critical systems and networks in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and caused damages of approximately £435,000.

Aspergers Syndrome: no reason not to face the courts?

McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, lost his High Court appeal against extradition in July, but in October the Home Secretary decided to delay the extradition while he examined new medical evidence. “I have to ensure that his Article 3 human rights are being respected,” Johnson said at the time.

However, in November Johnson said the information he had been provided with in the case of McKinnon was not “materially different” from that placed before the High Court earlier in the year, and therefore he could not contradict the ruling.

In an interview with the Enfield Advertiser, Alan Johnson said he still believes Mr McKinnon should be extradited. “Having Asperger’s isn’t a reason why you can’t face the courts,” he said. “Actually, there are people who have much more serious mental illnesses than Asperger’s who the courts have decided must still face the music for what they’ve done.”

McKinnon has been granted a review of the Home Secretary’s decision by a High Court judge. The review will examine Alan Johnson’s conclusion that a US trial would not breach McKinnon’s human rights.

“Politicians don’t decide whether to prosecute people: it’s a fundamental part of the way our country runs,” said Johnson. “The director of public prosecutions decides and it is his decision to prosecute Gary McKinnon and his decision to prosecute him in America – to extradite him.”

“All the courts – the district court, the high court, the House of Lords, the European Court, and the appeal court – upheld that decision and indeed the most senior judge in the land has said it would be unsatisfactory in the extreme for Gary McKinnon to be tried anywhere other than America,” he added. “That’s because the action was against America, the witnesses are in America, and so that’s that.”

McKinnon’s supporters have been vocal in their appeals against the Home Secretary’s decision. His solicitor Karen Todner said the numerous court battles had been taking a toll on his mental health, and McKinnon’s Conservative MP David Burrowes described Johnson’s decision as “spineless”. McKinnon’s mother Janis Sharp has also warned that he is at risk of suicide.

“Gary has been in a heightened state of terror for almost eight years,” she told the BBC back in November. “You wouldn’t do it to an animal, for a person to go through this every second of every day is against anyone’s human rights.”

The date of the judicial review has been set for 25 May.

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