Jacqui Smith 'made flawed decision by backing US extradition of Scots hacker'
FORMER home secretary Jacqui Smith made a "flawed" decision in giving the green light for the extradition of a Scots-born autism sufferer to the US, the High Court in London heard yesterday.
A QC for UFO-obsessive Gary McKinnon argued that Ms Smith, who left the Cabinet last week, had rammed through the extradition agreement without giving thought to his Asperger's syndrome.
Mr McKinnon was accused by the US government of mounting the "biggest military hack of all time", involving 97 computers belonging to organisations including the US Navy and Nasa.
Edward Fitzgerald QC told Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie that Ms Smith had been given access to medical evidence warning her that extraditing Mr McKinnon would lead to serious psychological problems.
He said Ms Smith had "erred in law and reached a flawed decision in response to the medical evidence".
He continued: "She underestimated and misrepresented the gravity of the situation without obtaining evidence of her own, made no inquiries and sought no assurance as to the grant of bail before, and repatriation after, trial in the US."
Mr McKinnon could face eight to nine years in a high-security US prison, lawyers said. He has said he will plead guilty to hacking offences if he is tried in the UK. He maintains he was searching for evidence of UFOs.
Home Office lawyers argued that extradition was justified and would not be disproportionate, given the very serious charges Mr McKinnon faces.
They said in written submissions that, although extradition might result in mental suffering, the "degree of suffering" would fall far short of the levels that would justify High Court intervention.
Even if there was a real possibility that Mr McKinnon might become suicidal it would not necessarily be unjust or oppressive to extradite. The US authorities had given assurances he would be provided with appropriate treatment. But family and friends fear the 43-year-old could be at risk of suicide and his mental condition will deteriorate further.
The High Court hearing is expected to end today although a ruling may not be received for weeks. Mr McKinnon, born in Glasgow but now living in north London, is seeking judicial review of the decision made last October by Ms Smith.
This is his last attempt to avoid being sent to an American jail.
Yesterday his plight won the backing of Scottish musicians The Proclaimers.
Band member Charlie Reid said: "Given his condition and the conditions in American jails, and the possible severe length of the sentence, we are very concerned about his health."
He added: "It does seem that maybe the (UK] government could play a bit tougher with the Americans."
Previously his case had been rejected on other grounds by a district judge, the High Court and, in July last year, the Lords. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg also refused to intervene.
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