Peer puts pressure on Home Office over McKinnon

Peer puts pressure on Home Office over McKinnon

Summary: Ulster Unionist peer Baron Maginnis of Drumglass has tabled six questions in the House of Lords in support of US military hacker Gary McKinnon.Lord Maginnis tabled the questions, which the government is required to answer, in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

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Ulster Unionist peer Baron Maginnis of Drumglass has tabled six questions in the House of Lords in support of US military hacker Gary McKinnon.

Lord Maginnis tabled the questions, which the government is required to answer, in the House of Lords on Wednesday. One question asked whether the government had considered a Crown Prosecution Service admission in court in 2009 that evidence against McKinnon was 'hearsay'.

US allegations that McKinnon caused $700,000 damage to military computers in 2001 and 2002 — enough to pass the threshold necessary to have him extradited — have never been substantiated in an extradition case that started in 2005, Maginnis told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"The costs that are quoted have never been quantified and hence are hearsay," said Maginnis. "There's every indication [McKinnon] could be tried in the UK, but whether he should be tried at all is something that is open to question."

McKinnon's defence team and family would like to see McKinnon tried in the UK, as McKinnon has Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum. Experts in Asperger's syndrome have said that McKinnon is at risk of suicide if extradited.

In one of his questions, Lord Maginnis asked whether a 2009 statement by Lord Justice Stanley Burnton that McKinnon could be tried either in the UK or in the US had been taken into account by the Home Office.

ZDNet UK understands that Maginnis has canvassed senior legal opinion in the House of Lords about whether McKinnon could be tried in the UK.

The remaining questions include whether costs that have been quoted take into account "upgrading inadequate computer security systems". The questions are due to be answered by the government by 18 May.

Once the questions have been answered, Maginnis may try to arrange a meeting with the US authorities.

Lord Maginnis introduced a debate in March as to whether McKinnon is undergoing 'psychological torture' due to an impasse between the Home Office and McKinnon's legal team. The Home Office has requested a fresh evaluation of McKinnon's likelihood of suicide, although McKinnon has already been assessed by a number of experts.

McKinnon's mother Janis Sharp sent the Home Office a letter on 6 April. The letter, which has been seen by ZDNet UK, says that McKinnon has agreed to be seen by Dr. Jan Vermeulen, a forensic psychiatrist.

The Home Office told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it had received the letter, but that a psychiatrist had yet to be agreed between the Home Office and McKinnon's legal team.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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