Nasa hacker loses Lords appeal against extradition

Gary McKinnon's last chance to avoid extradition to the US for trial will be an attempted appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

Gary McKinnon, the so-called 'Nasa hacker', has lost his appeal to the House of Lords and now faces deportation to the US.

McKinnon's only hope of avoiding having to go to the US to face trial there now rests with the European Court of Human Rights.

McKinnon is trying to avoid deportation on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial in the US. On Wednesday morning, the House of Lords dismissed McKinnon's case. It was originally scheduled to be heard sometime in early September but was suddenly brought forward last week.

McKinnon's case was heard by Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood on behalf of the House. The main argument of McKinnon's counsel centred on the 'plea bargain' allegedly offered by the US government, and the wide disparity between what the US government offered McKinnon if he agreed to hand himself over and admit guilt (three to four years of prison at the maximum) and what he otherwise faced (anything up to life imprisonment).

Lord Brown said that, in reaching its judgement, the court was aware of the use of plea bargaining in the US on a wide scale and said that it would be reasonable for US authorities to want to use it. He also said that the use of informal plea bargaining was already common in the UK and the Court of Appeal's opinion that it viewed the plea bargain with McKinnon with "a degree of distaste" was "somewhat fastidious". "Our law is replete with statements of the highest authority" acknowledging the use of plea bargaining to expedite the legal process, he said. Its use in this case was not unwarranted, the judge concluded.

McKinnon's last hope will be an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but it is by no means certain that the court would be willing to hear his case.

The case first became prominent five years ago when the US government asked the UK government to allow McKinnon's case to be heard in the US.

In a statement, McKinnon's firm of solicitors, Kaim Todner, said that he is "neither a terrorist nor a terrorist sympathiser" and argued that "his case could have been properly dealt with by our own prosecuting authorities". Further, the solicitors argued that the decision to ensure he is put on trial in the US was designed to allow "the US government to make an example of him".

McKinnon's only chance now, they argued, is that he be saved from extradition. "The consequences he faces if extradited are both disproportionate and intolerable, and we will be making an immediate application to the European Court to prevent his removal," his solicitors said.