Judge lights fire under McKinnon proceedings

Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon's case has 'dragged on', according to a high court judge, who has fixed a court date for July and told both defence and prosecution they must submit evidence before then

The Home Office must review medical evidence and reach a decision before July about whether Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon should be extradited to the US, a high court judge has found.

McKinnon's case is taking too long, Lord Justice Richards told Court 1 of the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday. Richards said the extradition case, which started in 2004, had "dragged on", and listed a hearing on the case for July.

"My concern is if we don't fix a date, we're not going to get a hearing this year," said Richards. "This matter has dragged on for a considerable time."

The Home Office has appointed two medical experts to provide evidence about McKinnon's psychological state, and whether his medical condition puts him at risk of suicide should he be extradited, Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Cranston were told on Friday.

Professor Declan Murphy and Professor Thomas Fahy of Kings College, London were appointed by the Home Office in November to judge McKinnon's psychological state, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner told ZDNet UK.

Murphy has met McKinnon, but Fahy has not yet examined the self-confessed hacker, who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2008. The two experts have been considering medical evidence since November 2011, according to Todner.

Richards said the psychiatric experts must submit their report to McKinnon's legal team by 24 February. The defence team then has until 23 March to make representations to home secretary Theresa May, who must decide whether McKinnon's medical condition and psychological state put him at risk of suicide.

May can halt McKinnon's extradition under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, Todner said. If the home secretary decides not to halt the extradition, the hearing in July will go ahead as a judicial review of the home secretary's decision.

McKinnon's barrister Edward Fitzgerald told the court that if May decides against extradition for McKinnon, there will be no need for the court hearing in July.

The case has been subject to a number of delays. For example, the Home Office and McKinnon's legal team wrangled over the appointment of the medical experts for a year.

The self-confessed Nasa hacker "had a hard time over Christmas", McKinnon's stepfather, who wished not to be named, told ZDNet UK. His mother Janis Sharp said his state is "getting worse and worse".

McKinnon is wanted on seven counts of hacking into Nasa and Pentagon computers between 1 February, 2001 and 19 March, 2002. The US requested his extradition for what US prosecutors described as "the biggest military hack of all time" in 2004. The Londoner has admitted hacking into the systems, claiming to have been looking for evidence of extra-terrestrials. He denies causing damage.

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