Hacker Gary McKinnon to face no further criminal action in the UK
By CRAIG BROWN
Published in Scotsman Newspaper Friday 14 December 2012 23:41
A RELIEVED Gary McKinnon wept with joy yesterday after being told he will not face prosecution in the UK, just months after winning his battle against extradition to the United States.
• McKinnon to face no further prosecution in UK
• Director of Public Prosecutions cites difficulties in securing both witnesses and a potential conviction
• McKinnon faced extradition to US over hacking of government and military computers
His mother, Janis Sharp, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her computer hacker son, said the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was the perfect gift on her birthday.
However, there was strong criticism for the decade of uncertainty that Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon has faced during a lengthy legal process.
The decision not to prosecute followed a review of the case that was ordered after the UK government decided in October to block his extradition to the US on health grounds.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer, QC, said a joint panel of the CPS and police had decided there should not be a new criminal investigation.
Speaking after that decision, Ms Sharp said: “I feel fantastic – it’s just wonderful.
“The next thing I would like to get, impossible though it seems, would be a pardon from President Obama.
“I think it’s possible because I think Obama seems like a good person, and so does his wife.”
She said yesterday’s news was “amazing because it’s my birthday”, adding: “Gary was tearful because of the relief – he was so scared.
“It’s going to be such a nice Christmas not to have everything hanging over us.”
Mr McKinnon, who lives in London, would have faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted in the US on charges of gaining unauthorised access to 97 US government computers and causing £487,000 worth of damage.
The 46-year-old, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, was permitted to stay in the UK after medical reports showed he was highly likely to try to kill himself if extradited.
On 16 October, Home Secretary Theresa May decided not to extradite him, and added that it was for the DPP to decide whether Mr McKinnon had a case to answer in a UK court.
Yesterday, Mr Starmer said: “None of the reasons for the original decision in 2002, that the appropriate place for Mr McKinnon to be tried was the United States, have altered.
“So far as the evidence is concerned, the position in 2012 is the same as it was in 2002.
“Most of the witnesses are in the US, as is nearly all the physical evidence and the bulk of the unused material, some of which is sensitive.
“The potential difficulties in bringing a case in England and Wales now should not be underestimated, not least the passage of time, the logistics of transferring sensitive evidence prepared for a court in the US to London for trial, the participation of US government witnesses in the trial and the need fully to comply with the duties of disclosure imposed on the CPS.
“The prospects of a conviction against Mr McKinnon which reflects the full extent of his alleged criminality are not high.
“The joint CPS/police panel recommended to the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that he should not commence a new criminal investigation into Mr McKinnon. The Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has accepted that advice.”
Scottish human rights lawyer John Scott said it was an outrage that the case had dragged on for so long.
He said: “I applaud Keir Starmer’s decision, and I’ve no doubt this is the right one. But when you get a decision made this way, it calls into serious question much of the expense.”
Mr Scott described the case as part of the “legacy of 9/11”. He said: “He [Gary McKinnon] had the full American weaponry [arrayed against him], and the charges he was facing could’ve seen him in prison for the next 20 years. There might be a question of compensation for what he’s had to go through.”
Fellow human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said the result would give hope to others in a similar situation. “It’s testament to his mother and the people who have campaigned for Gary McKinnon,” he said.
“In the end, I think it shows what is possible and it gives hope to other families who are fighting against such an extradition treaty.”