Leading article: A failure of common sense

Share
Related Topics

It will be six weeks before the High Court rules on the judicial review of the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute the British computer nerd Gary McKinnon who has admitted hacking into 97 US military computers from his London home in the months following the September 11 terror attacks. Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that leads to obsessive behaviour, claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs which he is convinced the Pentagon is suppressing. The US wants to extradite him to face a jail term of up to 60 years, which is why Mr McKinnon's lawyers want him tried in the UK.

Common sense dictates that Gary McKinnon should be treated with a light hand. Though he placed abusive anti-US messages on their computers he did no vandalism, created no viruses, stole nothing and did not act with malicious intent. Previous cases involving Britons who hacked into US computers have all been handled in the UK. Compassion also demands leniency. His autism is severe, and doctors have warned he could commit suicide if extradited. No purpose would be served by giving him a long prison sentence thousands of miles from his family.

Sadly our lawyers and politicians have failed on both common sense and compassion so far. Lengthy legal process have fallen short so far. A trial in the UK would test the dubious claim that his activities threatened US national security or have cost it nearly $1m. If he is found guilty of an offence under Britain's Computer Misuse Act 1990 he would face only a short jail sentence, or possibly just a requirement for psychological treatment.

Our courts and Government need to get a sense of proportion. The Home Secretary Alan Johnson should set aside any considerations about offering Mr McKinnon up as a sacrificial lamb to maintain relations between the UK and the US. He should halt the extradition process immediately and ask British prosecutors to reconsider their decision to leave the matter to the US courts. Such a move would also send a clear signal to the two High Court judges involved in the judicial review process. It is time that Britain's fabled sense of pragmatism asserted itself.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy