Deadline set for Nasa-hacker prosecution decision

The director of public prosecutions will give a decision whether to prosecute McKinnon in the UK in the next four weeks, according to McKinnon's solicitor
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The Crown Prosecution Service will give a decision in the next four weeks as to whether it will prosecute Nasa hacker Gary McKinnon.

McKinnon has been accused by US prosecutors of "the biggest military hack of all time". However, a prosecution in the UK by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would mean the self-confessed hacker would not be extradited to the US, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"I've just received a fax from [the CPS] this morning saying we should have a decision within four weeks," said Todner.

On 23 December Todner sent a letter to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer to say McKinnon would plead guilty if tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act (CMA).

Todner told ZDNet UK last week that it is "generally accepted" McKinnon would receive a more lenient sentence if tried in the UK under the CMA.

McKinnon told ZDNet UK on Thursday he was "hopeful" Starmer would decide to prosecute him in the UK. "I'm hopeful because I've heard good things about the DPP," said McKinnon.

The self-confessed hacker, who was also known as 'Solo', is accused by US prosecutors of hacking 97 US army, navy, airforce and Nasa computers, and causing over $700,000 (£430,000) of damage by deleting files. McKinnon has never denied accessing the US military systems, but denies causing extensive damage. He claims he was initially searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life, and later found evidence of anti-gravity projects.

McKinnon faces up to 70 years in jail if found guilty by a US court and, as it stands, would serve his sentence in the US.

In addition to the decision of Starmer, on Tuesday 20 January the High Court will hear oral evidence from McKinnon's legal representation, who contend McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's in the summer was not taken into account by the home secretary Jacqui Smith when she turned down McKinnon's second appeal against extradition to the US.

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