Blow for Gary McKinnon as U.S. Extradition deal deemed ‘fair’

DailyMail.co.uk on October 14, 2011 released the following:

“By JAMES SLACK

The controversial Extradition Act under which Gary McKinnon faces being sent for trial in the U.S. is not biased against British citizens, a review has concluded.

The verdict of the independent panel, to be made public as early as Tuesday, is certain to provoke claims of a whitewash.

The review, led by Lord Justice Scott Baker, was prompted by alarm over the case of Asperger’s sufferer Mr McKinnon, who is facing extradition on charges of computer hacking.

But it has found that the 2003 Extradition Act is neither lopsided nor unfair.

The panel will also rule against the introduction of a so-called ‘forum bar’, which has long been demanded by Mr McKinnon’s supporters.

The rule, which can be passed with a vote in Parliament, would mean a suspect would normally be tried in the country where the bulk of his or her crimes were committed.

In Mr McKinnon’s case, he searched NASA computers for evidence of ‘little green men’ from his North London home.

Campaigners hoped that, at the very least, Lord Scott Baker would agree to the introduction of ‘forum’, which is already sitting on the statute books waiting to be enacted.

But the panel will rule that this is not necessary and that the current system is fair. The findings will be a political headache for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who promised in opposition to change the Act and save Mr McKinnon from extradition.

Writing in the Daily Mail in 2009, Mr Clegg called the Anglo-American treaty ‘lopsided’ and said it ‘gives more rights to Americans than British passport-holders’. He added: ‘I forced a debate on it . . . and warned the Government that the treaty would lead to an abuse of people’s rights in this country. But they wouldn’t listen.’

Critics of the Act say it is lopsided because British citizens are not given the same legal protection as their American counterparts.

If the U.S. government wants to extradite a UK citizen it needs only to outline the alleged offence, the punishment and provide an accurate description of the suspect.

But to extradite an American, Britain must prove that the wanted individual has probably committed a crime, a much harder test.

The U.S. has vehemently argued that there is nothing unbalanced about the treaty, and during the panel’s inquiry Lord Scott Baker met senior figures in the U.S. legal system.

The panel has now ruled in favour of the U.S. argument.

It will point out that the U.S. has never refused a request from Britain to extradite a suspect. Britain has refused to extradite in a handful of cases.

The extradition of Mr McKinnon, the subject of the Mail’s ‘An Affront to Justice’ campaign, was temporarily halted by Home Secretary Theresa May last year.

She wants to examine advice on whether the 45-year-old is fit to be sent abroad.”

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