A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

UK Law Lords deny appeal of alleged hacker set for extradition to US

[JURIST] UK House of Lords judges Wednesday denied the appeal [judgment text] of a man accused of hacking US government computers in 2001 and 2002 who had argued [certified points of appeal, PDF] that his extradition to the US would violate his human rights. British police arrested systems analyst Gary McKinnon [BBC profile; advocacy website] in 2002, and US authorities indicted [text, PDF] him later that year on charges of hacking NASA, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army and Navy computers in violation of US computer laws [18 USC 1030 text]. The British government granted the 2005 US extradition request, but McKinnon's lawyer appealed, alleging that US authorities had told McKinnon that if he did not plead guilty to the charges, he could be sentenced to life in prison since each of the seven counts against him is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine [indictment press release]. The Law Lords unanimously dismissed the appeal. Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood wrote:

[I]t would only be in a wholly extreme case . . . that the court should properly regard any encouragement to accused persons to surrender for trial and plead guilty, in particular if made by a prosecutor during a regulated process of plea bargaining, as so unconscionable as to constitute an abuse of process justifying the requested state’s refusal to extradite the accused. It is difficult, indeed, to think of anything other than the threat of unlawful action which could fairly be said so to imperil the integrity of the extradition process as to require the accused, notwithstanding his having resisted the undue pressure, to be discharged irrespective of the strength of the case against him.
McKinnon's lawyers have said they will file an appeal against the judgment to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. Bloomberg has more. The Times has local coverage.

McKinnon has not denied the charges against him but has said that he was motivated by a desire to uncover "hidden technology" capable of benefiting all of mankind and evidence of UFOs, which he claims is being suppressed by the US military.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.