Gary McKinnon: Timeline
- 14 December 2012
- From the section Home
The Crown Prosecution Service says computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who successfully fought an attempt to extradite him to the US, will not face charges in the UK. It follows a legal battle that has lasted more than 10 years. Here are the key events in his case.
Gary McKinnon is arrested by British police in his flat in north London. He is accused of hacking into highly sensitive US military computers between February 2001 and March 2002. The US Justice Department indicts him on eight counts of computer-related crimes and accuses him of causing $566,000 (£370,000) of damage. It wants him to face trial in America.
Mr McKinnon's lawyers say he will fight any attempt to extradite him, saying he could have been charged by British authorities, but instead ministers had decided to permit US authorities to begin extradition proceedings. "We can only presume that the motivation is political and that it is proposed to make an example of Mr McKinnon," they say.
The extradition hearing begins. Lawyer Mark Summers, representing the US government, says Mr McKinnon gained unauthorised access to 97 government computers. "The defendant's conduct was intentional and calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion," he says. Mr McKinnon's lawyers say their client will "vigorously" contest the extradition. "The British public need to ask themselves why British citizens are being extradited to the USA when the US government has not signed the extradition treaty between the two countries," they say.
Bow Street magistrates rule that Mr McKinnon should be recommended for extradition to the US but the final decision rests with the home secretary.
The US request to extradite Mr McKinnon is granted by Home Secretary John Reid. The Home Office issues a statement: "Mr McKinnon had exercised his right to submit representations against return but the secretary of state did not consider the issues raised availed Mr McKinnon." Mr McKinnon tells the BBC he will lodge a High Court appeal against Home Secretary John Reid's decision to allow him to be sent to America. He admits that he accessed US government systems but says he was looking for evidence the US government had "suppressed" information about UFO technology.
Mr McKinnon launches his High Court appeal, with his lawyer arguing he had been subjected to "improper threats" and the move would breach his human rights. If found guilty, Mr McKinnon would face a very long prison sentence "in the region of 45 years, if not more".
The High Court judges dismiss Mr McKinnon's case, saying they cannot find any grounds for appeal. Mr McKinnon's lawyers say they will take his case to the House of Lords.
Mr McKinnon's lawyers make their case to the Law Lords. They argue that allowing the extradition would be an "abuse of proceedings", because threats had been made against him by US authorities - life imprisonment if he did not co-operate and a "lesser" sentence if he did co-operate.
Mr McKinnon loses his lost Law Lords appeal against extradition. The Lords accept the Home Office case that no threats were made against him. Mr McKinnon's lawyers say he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Mr McKinnon loses his ECHR appeal. He is said to be "distraught" at the verdict. His lawyer reveals he has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and adds: "The offences for which our client's extradition is sought were committed on British soil and we maintain that any prosecution ought to be carried out by the appropriate British authorities."
Mr McKinnon's lawyers appeal to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to ensure he is not jailed in the US. The Home Office says his case is "receiving consideration".
Ms Smith rules that she will permit extradition.
Mr McKinnon signs a confession which reflects his "culpability" to avoid extradition to the US and offers to face trial in the UK. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says it is considering the offer. Soon afterwards the Asperger's Syndrome sufferer launches a judicial review on the basis that extradition would be "inappropriate" and would endanger his health.
The Crown Prosecution Service refuses to bring charges against Mr McKinnon in the UK. However the CPS says while it found enough evidence to bring charges against the hacker under the act for obtaining "unauthorised access with intent", the evidence it has "does not come near to reflecting the criminality that is alleged by the American authorities".
Mr McKinnon is refused permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against his extradition to the US. The High Court rules the case is not of sufficient "general public importance" to go to the UK's highest court. Human rights group Liberty condemns the decision, saying: "Never were justice and the law so out of sync as in the case of Britain's rotten extradition arrangements." Backbench MP David Davis says: "The reason this decision has been arrived at is because the British government created a set of laws and agreements which, masquerading as anti-terror laws, actually disadvantaged a whole range of British citizens." The Home Office puts Mr McKinnon's extradition on hold while it considers new psychiatric evidence.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson tells Mr McKinnon's family he cannot block the move on medical grounds. "Due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon's health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met," he says.
Mr McKinnon mounts a fresh High Court challenge to stop his extradition. The latest legal submissions include an up-to-date medical report on his situation and two reports about the ability of the US prison service to deal with his circumstances.
The judicial review is granted. Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg says decision is "heartening news". He adds: "Even now the prime minister and home secretary could step in to spare Gary McKinnon from this ordeal by ensuring that he is instead tried in a British court."
Mr McKinnon's lawyers make "representations" to new Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the extradition process. She agrees to adjourn the case.
On his first visit to the US as prime minister, David Cameron discusses the McKinnon case with US president Barack Obama. "I trust that this will get resolved in a way that underscores the seriousness of the issue but also underscores the fact that we work together, we can find an appropriate solution," says Mr Obama.
The government launches a review of the UK's extradition laws to see if the current treaty with the US is "unbalanced". Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who signed the treaty, has previously admitted he might have "given too much away" to the Americans.
Mr McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, welcomes comments made by President Barack Obama, on a state visit to the UK. President Obama said he would "respect" the British legal system.
MPs urge the government to reform the UK's extradition agreements to protect British citizens. Conservative MP Dominic Raab highlighted the case of alleged hacker Gary McKinnon and said he should not be treated like a "gangland mobster or al-Qaeda mastermind".
Mr McKinnon's mother says her son "had no choice" but to refuse fresh medical tests. Ms Sharp said the Home Office-appointed medical assessor had no experience with Asperger's. Home Secretary Theresa May said she was "personally concerned" he had not been examined to see whether there was a risk of suicide should he be extradited.
Mrs May announces that she has decided to block Mr McKinnon's extradition to the United States. She tells the House of Commons it is up to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to decide if Mr McKinnon should be prosecuted in the UK.
The Crown Prosecution Service says Mr McKinnon will not face charges in the UK. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC says the chances of a successful conviction are "not high".