Hacker Gary McKinnon will not face UK charges

Gary McKinnon British computer hacker Gary McKinnon fought extradition to the US for years

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon, whose extradition to the US was blocked, will not face charges in the UK, bringing to an end a 10-year legal battle.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said the chances of a successful conviction were "not high".

Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon's mother, said the news was "amazing" and she was grateful the case was "all over now".

Mr McKinnon, 46, admits accessing US government computers but says he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

The US Department of Justice said it would continue to collaborate with the UK government on a "wide range of shared concerns".

Mr Starmer announced the decision not to prosecute some three months after Home Secretary Theresa May stopped Mr McKinnon's extradition.

Low 'conviction prospects'

The US authorities tried to extradite Mr McKinnon to face charges of causing $800,000 (£487,000) worth of damage to military computer systems and he would have faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Gary McKinnon's mother: ''It's been life destroying, it's difficult to explain how bad it's been, and to have this over is amazing''

Mr McKinnon, who had been fighting extradition since 2002, has Asperger's syndrome.

In October, the Briton was permitted to stay in the UK on human rights grounds after medical reports showed he was very likely to try to kill himself if extradited.

In a statement, Mr Starmer said: "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."

He concluded: "Against this background, 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."

Start Quote

To have this over is amazing - Gary's gone through enough.”

End Quote Janis Sharp Gary McKinnon's mother

Following the decision not to bring charges in the UK, Mr McKinnon's mother said: "I'm very pleased and glad Gary's not going to have to go through another long term of trauma.

"I would love more than anything now for Mr Obama to give Gary a Christmas pardon."

She told BBC News: "Gary admitted to the intrusion, he always denied the damage. I feel the 10 years have been gruelling, it's been life-destroying. It's difficult to explain how bad it's been.

"To have this over is amazing. Gary's gone through enough. Other people have been accused of more serious hacking in this country and they've been given a £1,000 fine and a very short community sentence.

"Gary regrets what he's done. He wishes he hadn't done it. He wishes he hadn't upset the Americans. We all regret it. But I'm grateful to Theresa May that this is all over now."

Mr McKinnon's lawyer Karen Todner said she had "mixed feelings" about the decision.

She said: "I am pleased he is not going to be prosecuted because I wouldn't want to think he would ever spend any time in prison given his mental situation.

"But I am disappointed because the extradition warrant is still outstanding because he can't travel anywhere outside of the UK and will have this hanging over him until it's resolved.

"We have discussed approaching president Obama and asking for a pardon."

The US Department of Justice said its "law enforcement relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has always been predicated on trust, respect, and the common goals of protecting our nations and eliminating safe havens for criminals".

It added: "Notwithstanding the home secretary's decision in the McKinnon case, our extradition treaty serves the interests of both our nations, and the United States values our continuing collaboration with the CPS and British law enforcement authorities on a wide range of shared concerns."

Risk of suicide

US authorities have described Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon's actions as the "biggest military computer hack of all time" that was "calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion".

Mr McKinnon lost appeals in the High Court and the House of Lords against his extradition, but two years ago a High Court judge ruled Mr McKinnon would be at risk of suicide if sent away.

Earlier this year Mrs May put the decision on hold, in order that Home Office appointed psychiatrists could conduct an assessment of Mr McKinnon's mental state.

The psychiatrists concluded Mr McKinnon would be likely to take his own life if he was sent to face trial in the US.

Mr McKinnon was arrested in 2002 and again in 2005 before an order for his extradition was made in July 2006 under the 2003 Extradition Act.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    I am particularly intrigued by the UFO connection! - Gary obviously touched a very raw nerve there! . Having recently watched "Out of the Blue" - and having witnessed a mass UFO sighting here in Spain which was ludicrously put down to a satellite breaking up - years ago - I KNOW the powers that be think we are all brainwashed comatose turnips - Which we most definietely are not!

  • Comment number 314.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    So let me get this straight...

    McKinnon hacks into a U.S. computer and faces no charges, despite hacking being illegal in the UK.

    Yet O'Dwyer does nothing illegal in the UK and is forced to pay £10,000?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    This case, like others, have taken far too long. Why does this keep happening - over and over again?

  • Comment number 311.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Justice! He is not a terrorist and no threat to the US, if anything he should be rewarded for showing them flaws in their system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Seems you can't say anything against this man. If you-do your post just gets deleted. BBC censorship at its worst.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    I think the issue here is America's claim that he caused $800k worth of damage.

    Did he? If so I think he should face trial.

    If there's doubt about that 'damage' though, there are 'human' issues here. He was assessed to have Asperger's and to be a genuine suicide risk.

    That consideration trumps him just 'poking around' in US systems IMHO.

    It might not trump genuine £800K of damage though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    He should have been given the right punishment which would teach all hackers a lesson

    REally - the real hackers are state sponsored in other countries,like China. You think they would be dissauded? The US made far too much of this and frankly if one man could really do what they claimed the US needed it to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    "If there was a more obvious example of a citizen being used as a political pawn - this was it."

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    My ten yr. old son has Asperger's and I can fully understand the obsessive mentality that Gary adopted. When my son gets an idea in his head it has to be carried out and there is very little I, or anyone can say to dissuade him from this. This is why people with mental disorders have their condition taken into consideration by the courts. Schizophrenic murderers go to hospitals not prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    'But you haven't brought up a terrific son for 23 years who wouldn't hurt a fly but sometimes displays an almost unbelievable lack of common sense. As for Gary, great news!'

    Thats very commendable so what you are saying then is Gary's mum as guardian and parent should answer for his crime instead then for not supervising him correctly then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    How about the US pays this guy $800,000 (£487,000) for wasting 10 years of his life, then pays him extra compensation for pointing out a breach in a US MILITARY computer, if this guy can do that on his own then what can China or Russia or someone else do with state backing? Pathetic, the first thing i'd have done is tried to extradite him to offer him a job!

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    This was a calculated act of cyber-espionage. As with the members of Anonymous, McKinnon thinks himself above the law. A stiff jail sentence would have sent the message that this type of conduct is reprehensible. Shame on the British prosecutors!

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    As an IT person:
    1 why was the password set to "password". Bad admin. Someone should be prosecuted
    2 how did he get the address to acess this server. Bad admin. See above
    3. access all areas to the pwd. Bad admin. See above.
    I'm not a hacker myself(never would be) but you probably have less access to Youtube than these servers! It should be the people in Security in the USA to get prosecuted

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    If he's clever enough to hack into computer systems then he's clever enough to understand some of the consequences of his actions - Asperger's or whatever. This country is getting a reputation as a very soft touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    My son has Aspergers as well. He's 21 and still lives at home with us. He lives for his computor games and films. He's no trouble at all, but we do know that suicide is a real and present danger in someone with Aspergers if put under personal stress. Thank common sense that Gary isn't going to be deported to the USA. I wouldn't want to see my vulnerable son sent to the American legal system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    @284 haha indeed

    Hopefully they have removed all computer hardware from his home, and put a life time ban on him every using a computer again! Hes a very lucky boy, and the british tax payer suffers yet again. I wonder if all these pro McKinnon supports pay any tax, or does their hate of the Americans out weight way this simple truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Well I so needed this decision.
    The Guy was a nerd perhaps? Well so am I, but!!
    Lets here it for Teresa May.
    Good on yer gal get my vote any time.
    Yes and I have been to the US loads & loads of times got a 10yr B1/B2 visa and love em to bits BUT there is a limit.
    love em to bits but


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