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 295.

    Thank God Mrs May has had the courage not to hand Gary over to a country which can't even understand its own Constitution -- what more cruel and unnatural punishment can there be than keeping someone on death row for many years (longer than a UK life sentence) and then execute him. In contrast, shame on the sycophantic Alan Johnson and his predecessors in office.

  • Comment number 294.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    126. Peter_Sym
    "If the US had spent this wasted time and money making sure their computers were secure then perhaps they wouldn't have needed to spend it on immature tail-chasing.
    Wonder if you feel the same way about burglary. Its not the burglars fault, the home owner should have spent more on locks."

    Not a valid comparison. Nothing was taken or altered in this instance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    At last! Shouldn't have taken so long though. Sledgehammer vs Nut, nut wins. Hope the McKinnon family have a great Christmas. UFO's hahaha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Asperger's = no prosecution for serious crime is precisely the sort of reason why Anon are so empowered. I don't care but the British government should remember this when they're the targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    I don't believe this was a fair decision, If you do the Crime,Gotta be able to do the time,unless you have some condition that your lawyer claims will make YOU kill yourself if prosecuted.What a load of codswollop.Mucking around with any countries security is a crime.In the big picture mental state should have no place in deciding if someone should face trial for any crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    This was never about $800,000 worth of damage to American computers"

    If indeed it was $800k of damage but if it was, they should not look at the 'hacker' - they have only exposed weaknesses in their expensive systems and he (Mr McKinnon) is from a country on their side - they should be employing him to help them, not persecuting him. Typical American aggression & paranoia

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    To all the people wishing this guy good luck and well done . When you get a virus on your PC or your bank account hacked or click on a dodgy web link that takes note of all the keystrokes you make, then just think The people who done this may have aspurgers and if they get caught don't worry how much you have lost... He commited a crime so should have been tried - End Of

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    No extradition to U.S. = No extradition to U.K.
    Lets see how many of you think its great news when the Silicon Valley boys start shutting down our stock exchange, security systems and power facilities just for kicks, since they now know nothing will happen to them.
    Gary is an amatuer compared to them and this has just opened the gates to mass hackings in the U.K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Listen. It wasn't a prosecutable offence in the UK when he did it - which is why he wasn't hauled before a court in the first place. End of.

    Applying "laws" retrospectively in the shadow a retarded extradition treaty just makes the law more of an ass than it already seems.

    This whole affair was a mendacious case of judicial assault, nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Anyone who thinks Mr McKinnon "got away" with anything should take a look at what he's been through for the last 10 years not to mention his continued travel restrictions.

  • Comment number 284.

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

  • Comment number 283.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    An asinine decision, with far-reaching, strategic consequences. So he has autism; that is not a defence, but might constitute mitigation were he found guilty.

    As usual, this myopic, populist government acts only in its own (and then the Tories) best-interests; sacrificing a strategic relationship for the sake of appeasing tree-hugging do-gooders, devoid of strategic or legal acumen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    It appears this person did hack the US computers and it is illegal. It is wrong if he is avoiding justice because of his condition. However I am very uneasy about American justice which often seems highly draconian, and also that the 'passage of time' renders a casae in the UK fraught.
    Let us hope other countries do not play his game on us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I'm delighted with this news. My heart goes out to him and all his family and friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Very pleasing news. Good to see a little understanding, mercy and compassion in this cruel world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    @RonnieP - Aspergers is not an illness! Its a form of autism you ignorant person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Thank God Gary McKinnon has had his sword of Damocles removed.It's a pity Keir Starmer couldn't let it pass without a dig when he said the chances of a successful conviction were "not high".There was zero chance of a conviction,& to consider wasting the courts time with it should see him admonished,but then the the great & the good don't see themselves as oridinary mortals-or should that be plebs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Good for McKinnon, his defence always seemed extremely plausible, especially given his psychological profile...

    However... How much has this pointless fiasco cost us all, apart from the distress caused to Gary? Isn't it time to review our extradition treaty with the US?.

    If it was a proposed evicition to a European country that had cost us so much certain commentators would be up in arms...


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