Hacker Gary McKinnon will not face UK charges

 
Gary McKinnon British computer hacker Gary McKinnon fought extradition to the US for years

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon, whose extradition to the US was blocked, will not face charges in the UK, bringing to an end a 10-year legal battle.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said the chances of a successful conviction were "not high".

Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon's mother, said the news was "amazing" and she was grateful the case was "all over now".

Mr McKinnon, 46, admits accessing US government computers but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

The US Department of Justice said it would continue to collaborate with the UK government on a "wide range of shared concerns".

Mr Starmer announced the decision not to prosecute some three months after Home Secretary Theresa May stopped Mr McKinnon's extradition.

Low 'conviction prospects'

The US authorities tried to extradite Mr McKinnon to face charges of causing $800,000 (£487,000) worth of damage to military computer systems and he would have faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Gary McKinnon's mother: ''It's been life destroying, it's difficult to explain how bad it's been, and to have this over is amazing''

Mr McKinnon, who had been fighting extradition since 2002, has Asperger's syndrome.

In October, the Briton was permitted to stay in the UK on human rights grounds after medical reports showed he was very likely to try to kill himself if extradited.

In a statement, Mr Starmer said: "The potential difficulties in bringing a case in England and Wales now should not be underestimated, not least the passage of time, the logistics of transferring sensitive evidence prepared for a court in the US to London for trial, the participation of US government witnesses in the trial and the need fully to comply with the duties of disclosure imposed on the CPS.

"The prospects of a conviction against Mr McKinnon which reflects the full extent of his alleged criminality are not high."

He concluded: "Against this background, the joint CPS/police panel recommended to the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that he should not commence a new criminal investigation into Mr McKinnon. The Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has accepted that advice."

Start Quote

To have this over is amazing - Gary's gone through enough.”

End Quote Janis Sharp Gary McKinnon's mother

Following the decision not to bring charges in the UK, Mr McKinnon's mother said: "I'm very pleased and glad Gary's not going to have to go through another long term of trauma.

"I would love more than anything now for Mr Obama to give Gary a Christmas pardon."

She told BBC News: "Gary admitted to the intrusion, he always denied the damage. I feel the 10 years have been gruelling, it's been life-destroying. It's difficult to explain how bad it's been.

"To have this over is amazing. Gary's gone through enough. Other people have been accused of more serious hacking in this country and they've been given a £1,000 fine and a very short community sentence.

"Gary regrets what he's done. He wishes he hadn't done it. He wishes he hadn't upset the Americans. We all regret it. But I'm grateful to Theresa May that this is all over now."

Mr McKinnon's lawyer Karen Todner said she had "mixed feelings" about the decision.

She said: "I am pleased he is not going to be prosecuted because I wouldn't want to think he would ever spend any time in prison given his mental situation.

"But I am disappointed because the extradition warrant is still outstanding because he can't travel anywhere outside of the UK and will have this hanging over him until it's resolved.

"We have discussed approaching president Obama and asking for a pardon."

The US Department of Justice said its "law enforcement relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has always been predicated on trust, respect, and the common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating safe havens for criminals".

It added: "Notwithstanding the home secretary's decision in the McKinnon case, our extradition treaty serves the interests of both our nations, and the United States values our continuing collaboration with the CPS and British law enforcement authorities on a wide range of shared concerns."

Risk of suicide

US authorities have described Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon's actions as the "biggest military computer hack of all time" that was "calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion".

Mr McKinnon lost appeals in the High Court and the House of Lords against his extradition, but two years ago a High Court judge ruled Mr McKinnon would be at risk of suicide if sent away.

Earlier this year Mrs May put the decision on hold, in order that Home Office appointed psychiatrists could conduct an assessment of Mr McKinnon's mental state.

The psychiatrists concluded Mr McKinnon would be likely to take his own life if he was sent to face trial in the US.

Mr McKinnon was arrested in 2002 and again in 2005 before an order for his extradition was made in July 2006 under the 2003 Extradition Act.

 

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  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 329.

    I'm glad for Gary and his family's sake. However everybody saying that extradition and legal proceedings shouldn't have been taken up against him because he has Aspergers needs to remember that people with mental illness/learning difficulties/disabilities are not immune to the law. A condition is not a suitable defence for breaking the law, ever...

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 327.

    This is a complex case, but it seems that a genuine criminal offence was committed & material harm done. As such, there had to be some kind of legal process, even if it was only to establish that this man was unfit to answer the charges. The fault seems to lie more with the British legal system for taking so long, rather than with the Americans for wanting to extradite him.

  • rate this
    +55

    Comment number 220.

    Its understandable but there's plenty on here, ignorant of Aspergers and the fact that it combines high intelligence, obsessive focus on areas of interest + lack of social understanding that most of you take for granted. But you haven't brought up a terrific son for 23 years who wouldn't hurt a fly but sometimes displays an almost unbelievable lack of common sense. As for Gary, great news!

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 200.

    McKinnon did commit a criminal offence in the UK and should face justice for it, but here in the UK and face a proportionate punishment undere UK law. Another correspondent warned he could now be arrested if he travels overseas, whereas a conviction here 'protects' him under double jeapordy provisions. He can now never leave the UK again without risking finding himself en route to the USA.

  • rate this
    +43

    Comment number 176.

    By hacking into the US computers and because the US took an extreme view Garry has paid very dearly for his actions over the last decade.
    However, I think the US are utterly stupid by even admitting their systems have been hacked, imagine what "the enemy of the state" could do instead of Garry. Time Uncle Sam Used it as a wake up call instead of protecting inflated egos.

 

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