Cameron: 'No compassion' in hacker decision

Organisations including the Conservative Party and Liberty have criticised the UK-US extradition treaty following a high court decision regarding Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Tory leader David Cameron on Friday said there was "no compassion" in the law, following a high court decision concerning Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon.

Cameron said McKinnon, who has been accused of "the biggest military hack of all time" by US prosecutors, should be tried in the UK. McKinnon on Friday lost a bid to avoid extradition to the US, via high court judicial reviews of decisions by the home secretary and the director of public prosecutions.

"I am deeply saddened and disappointed with this decision," said Cameron in a statement. "Gary McKinnon is a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to face trial. If he has questions to answer, there is a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court."

McKinnon, who was not at court on Friday to hear the verdict, was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, in August 2008. His defence team has argued, with evidence from autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen, that the hacker is at risk of suicide if he is sent to face charges in the US.

Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie acknowledged McKinnon's vulnerability in their decision. "His mental health will suffer. There are risks of worse, including suicide," they wrote.

However, that risk is not grounds to halt his extradition, the judges ruled. "I have no doubt [McKinnon] will find extradition to, and trial and sentence and detention in the USA very difficult indeed," Burnton said in the judgement.

McKinnon stands accused of hacking US army, navy, airforce and Nasa systems in 2001 and 2002, causing $700,000 damage by deleting files. The Londoner has admitted hacking the systems in search of evidence of UFOs, but denies causing damage.

Human rights organisation Liberty on Friday lambasted the extradition treaty the UK has with the US.

"Today's court decision demonstrates the disgrace that is Britain's extradition arrangements that allow vulnerable people to be shipped off around the world when they should be tried here at home," said Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, in a statement. "Our judges' hands have been tied by rotten legislation that should now be overhauled by parliament without delay."

Cameron also said that the case "raises serious questions" about the workings of the Extradition Act, and called for it to be reviewed. Under the treaty, US prosecutors do not need to provide prima facie evidence against a UK citizen to secure an extradition. The Tories tried to force a review of the law earlier this month, but were unsuccessful.

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