Extradition: Gary McKinnon

Following his failed House of Lords Appeal in 2008, Bell Yard worked pro bono to help Gary McKinnon in his eventually successful fight against extradition to face charges of computer hacking and criminal damage.

Gary’s case served as an example of many of the consequences of the 2003 Treaty. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2008 and a succession of experts stated he would have suffered considerably and was at risk of suicide if he faced trial and imprisonment abroad, away from the security of his support network of family, friends and carers.

Regrettably, successive Home Secretaries had not seen fit to reconsider Gary’s extradition order in the light of his Asperger diagnosis. Fortunately faced with a Judicial Review of the latest of these decisions, the incumbent Home Secretary Theresa May finally halted his extradition on 16 October 2012.

Since Gary’s activity took place on UK soil, the UK could have chosen to prosecute him for his actions in this country way back in 2002, thus removing the decade long stress which was a considerable risk to his wellbeing whilst ensuring justice is done. However, the DPP took the decision not to prosecute Gary in the UK because he has said that the evidence in the CPS’ possession did not come near to reflecting the criminality that was alleged by the American authorities.

That the CPS had limited access to the alleged evidence is the very crux of the imbalance of the 2003 Treaty. For while the UK is required to present ‘probable cause’ in order to extradite a US citizen from the US, the US can make its charge against Gary and others like him, without presenting evidence to the UK authorities. Mere ‘information’ leading to the suggestion of criminality is deemed sufficient.


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