Gary McKinnon is facing a lengthy sentence in a US jail for hacking into Pentagon and NASA systems from his home in London. Gary has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and his lawyers argued, in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, that because of this, and because the crime was committed on British soil that he should be tried here in the UK.
Gary’s mother Janis Sharp has described the 43-year old as ‘broken and suicidal’ and experts have warned he could take his own life if extradited. A medical report said Gary has a “fixed-psychological conviction he will kill himself in preference to being extradited”. The study by consultant psychiatrist Professor Jeremy Turk of St George’s Hospital, said that suicide was now an “almost certain inevitability”.
Details of the report emerged following a decision by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, not to block the extradition on medical grounds. Mr McKinnon’s distraught mother said Mr Johnson, “should hang their heads in shame” over the extradition to face hacking charges.
Protracted extradition proceedings have “turned Gary into a nervous wreck” who is on medication to quell his suicidal tendencies, his mother, Janis Sharp, told MPs yesterday. In the light of Gary McKinnon’s hearings, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee has questioned whether the Human Rights Act is fit for purpose. The Human Rights Act is so exacting that Gary McKinnon’s risk of suicide might not be sufficient to engage its protections and prevent his extradition.
The threat of extradition was having a detrimental effect on McKinnon’s mental health, said Janis Sharp, his campaigning mother. She told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee: “It has ruined Gary’s life… it has destroyed him. If the door goes, he jumps. If someone touches him, he jumps. He has incredible chest pains every morning.”
It is reported that Gary became suicidal after the High Court threw out his appeal against extradition on human rights grounds. He was put on medication. “He would rather be dead than be extradited, that’s the reality,” his mother said.
Mark Lever, head of the National Autistic Society, told MPs that extradition, by taking an Aspergic far from familiar surroundings and family, could have a severe effect on their mental health.
in November 2009 Home Secretary stated that the Government would not intervene to block Gary McKinnon’s extradition. Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: “A government can’t tie its own hands and then protest that its hands are tied. The shoddy treatment of this vulnerable man should demonstrate that our rotten extradition laws need urgent reform.”
Liberty argues that where conduct constituting a crime occurs in the UK then a British court should be allowed to refuse extradition if it is in the interests of justice to do so. Liberty also holds that the requesting country should have to make out the case for extradition in a British court before the request is granted.
This change in decision followed the Home secretary’s initial halt on proceedings in October 2009 to consider new medical evidence about the computer hacker’s mental state. He had asked Home Office lawyers to consider the implications of fresh evidence about Gary’s state of psychiatric health.