McKinnon could get Clegg hearing

Gary McKinnon's supporters are looking to the deputy prime minister to break a deadlock in the extradition case, as the Nasa hacker deals with a loss of funding for his psychiatric care
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Campaigners for Gary McKinnon are looking to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to help break the deadlock in his extradition case, as the Nasa hacker deals with a withdrawal of funding for his psychiatric care.

Gary McKinnon Clegg

Hacker Gary McKinnon's campaigners hope deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will help the extradition case. Photo credit: Tom Espiner

Clegg's office confirmed on Tuesday that Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mother and campaigner, asked for a meeting with the Liberal Democrat leader earlier in February.

"We've received a request and will respond shortly," a spokeswoman for the deputy prime minister said.

Before the election, the Liberal Democrats said they would support McKinnon in his bid to avoid extradition to the US on hacking charges. After the general election in May, however, Clegg said the government may lack the powers to intervene.

McKinnon has been kept waiting for the next stage in his fight against extradition since November, when the Home Office asked for a fresh independent assessment of McKinnon's mental state. Despite ongoing discussions between McKinnon's supporters and the government, a psychiatrist has not been assigned yet to conduct the examination.

Gary does not deserve either a real or a virtual death sentence, whether by suicide or by damage to his mental health.
– Janis Sharp

McKinnon has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum. He is suffering from depression at the prospect of extradition and has been diagnosed as being at risk of suicide by experts. A report by former Home Office psychiatrist professor Declan Murphy in November found that McKinnon was likely to be more at risk of suicide due to his disorder.

"The greater contribution to Gary's suicide risk is his ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. That is, he now has a fixed autistic-like idea — which is currently unshakeable — that his best outcome is to take his own life," Murphy said in the report.

NHS funding for psychiatric care for McKinnon has been withdrawn by Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust (PCT) as a result of government cuts, Sharp said in an email interview.

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has offered to pay for McKinnon's psychiatric treatment, according to Sharp. The musician is already donating royalties from his Metallic Spheres collaboration with ambient electronica band The Orb to pro-McKinnon campaigns.

"David Gilmour is now making a charitable donation from his royalties to pay for Gary's continued psychiatric treatment under professor Jeremy Turk," Sharp said.

McKinnon has been involved with the police and courts over the hacking for nine years, and this has had an appreciable impact on his health, she added.

"Gary does not deserve either a real or a virtual death sentence, whether by suicide or by irrecoverable damage to his mental health, for a crime that the Crown Prosecution Service told him would attract a six-month community service sentence in the UK," she said.

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