McKinnon case sees fresh delay over psychiatric dispute

NASA hacker Gary McKinnon has been given two weeks to agree to a further psychiatric assessment, a measure requested by the home secretary to help her decide on his extradition case

The extradition case against Gary McKinnon has been adjourned while authorities wait to see if the self-confessed NASA hacker will submit to another psychiatric examination, as requested by the Home Office.

McKinnon faces extradition to the US for hacking into NASA and Pentagon systems between 2001-2. He admits doing this, but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs. He suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, and his mother Janis Sharp claims he is too fragile for further assessment, let alone extradition and the prospect of 60 years in jail.

According to the Press Association, High Court judges adjourned the case on Thursday. McKinnon has two weeks to say whether he will agree to a further examination, and the next hearing in the case will take place on 23 or 24 July.

Home secretary Theresa May has said a fresh examination is necessary for her to assess whether he really is at risk of suicide if extradited. She is apparently "very near" a decision, according to the BBC.

The judges have previously expressed frustration at how long McKinnon's case is taking. He was indicted in the US in 2002 and the extradition case has been running on since 2004 — Theresa May is the sixth home secretary to be dealing with it.


In a statement on Wednesday, Sharp said the numerous psychiatric assessments McKinnon has undergone during the case "continue to take their toll on his extremely fragile mental state". She said the existing diagnoses should be sufficient to convince the home secretary to scrap the extradition.

"I do not want any more pressure placed on my son that could push him over the edge potentially causing him to take his own life or to be confined to a mental institution for 50 years, and dying there as my grandmother did," Sharp said.

McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, in 2008.

His case has provided a rallying point for those opposed to the UK-US extradition agreement. The 'war on terror' deal allows the US to demand the extradition of UK citizens for crimes in the US, without having to show UK authorities evidence for the allegations. The UK does not have the same right.

In the last year, McKinnon's case has been joined by that of Richard O'Dwyer , a British student who ran a website linking to unlawfully copied music. O'Dwyer faces extradition to the US on charges of copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.