McKinnon extradition on hold until February

The Home Office has said the Nasa hacker's extradition to the US is on hold, pending a decision by the UK's director of public prosecutions over whether he should be tried here instead
Written by David Meyer, Contributor and  Tom Espiner, Contributor

Gary McKinnon's potential extradition to the US for hacking military systems is on hold for the next few weeks, McKinnon's lawyer has told ZDNet UK.

On Tuesday, McKinnon appeared at the High Court in London for an oral hearing about his extradition. McKinnon has always admitted hacking into Nasa and Pentagon systems — a crime for which he could face up to 70 years in prison if he were found guilty by a US court — but denies causing damage to the extent claimed by the US.

Late last December, McKinnon sent a confession to Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), in the hope he might be tried in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act, rather than in the US.

Before the hearing, McKinnon's solicitor Karen Todner told ZDNet UK that the home secretary's counsel had promised her the Home Office would stay the extradition until the DPP had issued his decision.

"The counsel for the home secretary has undertaken not to extradite Gary pending a decision from the DPP," Todner said. The DPP said a week ago he would make a decision within four weeks, so that decision is expected in mid-February.

McKinnon, speaking to ZDNet UK before the hearing, described himself as "nervous". He was, however, jubilant at the news of the delayed extradition.

"It's brilliant news — they're delaying the whole thing until we've got the DPP's decision," McKinnon said. "It's such a relief."

McKinnon added that he and his team would also apply for a judicial review of the home secretary's October rejection of his appeal against extradition. McKinnon's lawyers had argued that he should not be extradited on the grounds he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum, but the Home Office rejected the appeal, claiming the diagnosis did not provide sufficient grounds for overturning the extradition order.

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