I was pleased to hear the Home Secretary tell us this week that Gary McKinnon was not to be extradited to stand trial in the US. As far as I could tell, almost all of us on the Gov't benches were pleased. In general the opposition benches were more muted. It was only Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary who openly disagreed. I have to admit that I thought Alan Johnson made a fair point, as he usually does, and was extremely brave to stand up and make it. The Telegraph has given him a platform to go into greater detail. It's worth reading.
I was pleased by Mrs May's decision because 'politics' and 'public opinion' inevitably plays a part in how we feel about issues of this sort. The Home Secretary would be horrified to hear this - and would deny absolutely that any such considerations entered her mind. I'm only saying why I was 'pleased' - not why I thought she was right. And to be frank, I'm not at all sure she was right. Lets consider some of the issues.
It's generally thought that the 2003 extradition treaty is biased in favour of the US. The UK seeks extradition on the basis of the test of 'probably cause' while the US seeks it on the basis of 'reasonable suspicion'. Mrs May accepts, backed by the Coalition Gov't's own Scott Baker Report that there is no practical difference. In any case this was not a determining factor.
Gary McKinnon has admitted that he 'hacked' into highly sensitive US defence infrastructure soon after 9/11. He left a message criticising US foreign policy and warned that he would strike again - even if he later claimed he was looking for UFOs. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary and I reckon these to be very serious charges indeed. There has been much legal consideration of all the points at law, and all have been fully satisfied. The only avenue open to Mrs May was to decide whether extradition would breach Article 3 of European Convention of Human Rights. Sometime during this process Gary McKinnon was diagnosed as an Asperger's sufferer - which meant that the process was started again. This was not accepted as reason to prevent extradition by Lord Justice Burnton in 2009. Alan Johnson claims that while he was Home Secretary, he saw no reason to bar extradition and that Gary McKinnon refused to undergo independent medical assessment. Only Mrs May has seen the most recent medical evidence, but Alan Johnson believes it must be substantially the same as it was in 2009. I do not claim to have any idea. But it's what Mrs May made her decision on.
Various reasons have been put forward by those supporting Gary McKinnon's case, but the Home Secretary dismisses them all - except that based on Article 3. Wonder when this case will be first used as a precedent to prevent us extraditing some unsavoury character! Having written all this, I have not persuaded myself that I should be anything but pleased by the decision. Just grateful that I'm not a former Home Secretary.