COMPUTER hacker Gary McKinnon may be allowed to spend part of any prison sentence imposed by a United States court in a British jail, after David Cameron revealed it was one of a range of options being discussed by diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic.
• Gary McKinnon with his mother, Janis, who said he was 'in shock' at the latest news. Picture: PA
The Prime Minister said UK officials had been in talks with the US ambassador on the fate of Mr McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's and is due to be extradited to the US to face charges he illegally accessed Nasa and Pentagon computers.
His supporters maintain he is ill and should not be sent to the US, and they were given hope on Tuesday, with US president Barack Obama indicating he wished to find an "appropriate solution" to the row after it was raised by Mr Cameron during White House talks.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, who has publicly condemned plans to send Mr McKinnon to the US to face trial, said his government had held discussion with US officials, and that allowing the Glasgow-born hacker to serve time in a UK jail was "one potential outcome" of the talks. He said they had been working on options "where perhaps some of (the sentence] - if there is a prison sentence - is served in a British prison".
He added: "I'll be working very hard to make sure that these things are discussed between the two governments and if we can reach a settlement, then all to the good. I don't want to make a prediction because there are many difficult issues that have to be worked through."
Mr Cameron indicated the discussions would continue, and he cautioned against Mr McKinnon's family and friends raising their hopes until the talks concluded.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reiterated yesterday that the coalition government hoped to "find a way forward" with the US.
Mr Clegg, who has also been critical of the decision to send 43 year-old Mr McKinnon to the US, was questioned on the case during his first stint standing in for Mr Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions.
The hacker's local Conservative MP, David Burrowes, expressed his "gratitude" over the top-level talks taking place between Britain and the US, and asked: "Given the mutual commitment to find a way through and seek an appropriate solution, are there now real grounds for optimism that there is light at the end of a tortuous tunnel for Mr McKinnon?"
Mr Clegg told MPs: "No-one doubts the gravity of the offences which he is alleged to have committed - that is beyond question. The simple question is whether he should, in these circumstances, be tried here or extradited to the United States. The Prime Minister and the president of the United States indicated yesterday that they had had a discussion on Gary McKinnon and that, notwithstanding the gravity of the alleged crimes, they hope to find a way forward."
Earlier, Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon's mother, said she was delighted her son's plight had been discussed with Mr Obama by the Prime Minister.
She said: "It was amazing that we've now got someone brave enough in government to actually stand up for British citizens and to raise it with Obama."
Ms Sharp claimed her son was "in shock" after hearing his case had been discussed at such a high level, adding: "For him to know that he can stay here and be tried here would be just such an amazing relief."
Mr McKinnon, who lives in north London, says he was looking for evidence of UFOs when he accessed top secret US military computers. On Tuesday, Mr Obama reiterated that the US authorities treated his crimes seriously and indicated he was open to a diplomatic solution that "underscored" that seriousness.