Gary McKinnon, the computer hacker who breached the systems of the Pentagon and Nasa, has been given hope in his 10-year battle against extradition, it was reported tonight.
A report drawn up by Home Office-appointed psychiatrists has warned that McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s, is very likely to attempt suicide if he is sent for trial in the United States, where he faces a maximum jail sentence of 60 years.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is expected to announce her decision on whether McKinnon should be extradited in Parliament on Tuesday.
McKinnon’s family has not been told the outcome of her decision, but has seen a new Government-commissioned medical report attesting to the 46-year-old man’s mental fragility.
The study, by Professor Declan Murphy and Professor Tom Fahy of the Institute of Psychiatry, is dated 24 September and is partly based on a new assessment of McKinnon by three experts in Asperger’s and suicide. Professor Simon Baron Cohen, Professor Jeremy Turk and Dr Jan Vermeulen carried out their examinations earlier this year.
The Guardian, which has seen the document, reported that Murphy and Fahy had written: “It is clear from [Vermeulen’s] report that there is a significant risk of suicidal behaviour and that Mr McKinnon ‘will do’ what he has threatened for the last three to four years if the extradition proceeds.
“On this specific point, we cannot offer reassurance to the authorities who are dealing with this case.”
From his bedroom in north London, McKinnon hacked into dozens of state computers in the United States, leaving notes that mocked the lack of security. When he was arrested in March 2002, he admitted the hacking, but said he had been looking for evidence of UFOs. However, the US says he caused significant damage to its systems and has been dogged in its determination to see him face trial.