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 335.

    A disgraceful decision, a clear message to criminals, have your get out of jail card (disability) ready when you commit your next crime. The disabled now join the police as being above the law. The UK is a complete laughing stock

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    315. Brightraven "having witnessed a mass UFO sighting here in Spain which was ludicrously put down to a satellite breaking up"

    If there were aliens anywhere, and assuming they could travel in space, how could they possibly know our planet was here in advance of setting out? They could not as the distances are too great. The universe is not the sort of place where you can wander about in hope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    How can we take your comment seriously when you have claimed to have seen a UFO (I'm presuming you mean Alien and not just something you didn't recognise)

    I'm putting this out there - Interstellar travel is impossible. FACT

  • Comment number 332.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    At last, some good old fashioned common sense. I'm disgusted at the actions of the US administration and they should feel ashamed at what they've put this mother and son through. How utterly pathetic and miopic they've shown themselves to be. Planet Earth calling...

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    Merry Christmas Gary. You and your mother should not been put through this hell by the US bully boys. You did them a big favour in making them take their computer security seriously. Well done to the UK authorities in standing up for justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    I'm glad for Gary and his family's sake. However everybody saying that extradition and legal proceedings shouldn't have been taken up against him because he has Aspergers needs to remember that people with mental illness/learning difficulties/disabilities are not immune to the law. A condition is not a suitable defence for breaking the law, ever...

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    I hope someone has taken his computer away. The mans making a fool of everyone

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    This is a complex case, but it seems that a genuine criminal offence was committed & material harm done. As such, there had to be some kind of legal process, even if it was only to establish that this man was unfit to answer the charges. The fault seems to lie more with the British legal system for taking so long, rather than with the Americans for wanting to extradite him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    "So let me get this straight...
    McKinnon hacks into a U.S. computer and faces no charges, despite hacking being illegal in the UK."

    You got it anything but straight. What he did was not a crime in the UK at the time. Do you want it spelled out in words of 1 syllable or less?

  • Comment number 325.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    Give the guy a job at GCHQ. There can't be many of us capable of hacking the Pentagon and keeping an eye on our oil loving burger munching buddies across the Pond.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    If Gary was able to gain access to any US secret site,then he did them a favor,in flagging up security weakness.At last common sense has prevailed,but it took so long.Thus proving that common sense is not that common.

  • Comment number 322.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    To blame the inadequacy of USA security is like excusing somebody who robs a house when the door has been left open. This was a crime – regardless of the lack of appropriate security. British jails are full of people with mental illness (many at risk of suicide) and most have been responsible for far less than £1million damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Excellent news,
    Well done to Gary and family.
    What a shambles from our Government and the poodle state.
    Feeble, out of touch and unable to make a firm decision about a situation that should have been resolved years ago, but what can one expect from a bunch of Eton school boys who have no idea about reality let alone real people.
    Don't forget we are all in this together .

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    What a whitewash. What's the betting Gary makes a miraculous recovery from Asperger's now all legal action is gone. This issue is an example of EVERYTHING that is wrong with society today - no one wants to take responsibility for their actions nowadays. It's always someone else's fault. I would've had this pathetic excuse for a mummy's boy bound & gagged & on the first flight to the States.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    @307. Count Otto Black

    Thing is, he got into an unsecured network using a script kiddies trick. He was highly traceable because he wasn't a professional more than likely.

    Now if a script kiddy could get into a 'high security' system... what makes you think pros from the middle east/ china / other random countries in the world weren't muddling round in there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Brilliant! We should allow more criminals to say 'I'm sorry', then let them off and maybe even get them pardoned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.


    Yes, and isn't it strange that the Asperger's was only discovered AFTER McKinnon's arrest? To think of all those years it remained undetected.

    There are plenty of software engineers and administrators with AS; some where their condition is obvious to all their colleagues. Luckily they usually understand the law on hacking. McKinnon, a systems administrator, should have too.


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