Gary McKinnon extradition: suicide ‘almost inevitable’ psychiatrist warns
by Christopher Hope and Andrew Porter
The medical report said Mr McKinnon, who is known to suffer Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, also has a “fixed-psychological conviction he will kill himself in preference to being extradited”.
The emergency study by consultant psychiatrist Professor Jeremy Turk of St George’s Hospital, London, said that suicide was now an “almost certain inevitability”.
Details of the report emerged following a decision by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, not to block the extradition on medical grounds, as disclosed by The Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
Mr McKinnon’s distraught mother said the Government, and Mr Johnson, “should hang their heads in shame” over the extradition to face hacking charges.
Extracts of Prof Turk’s report, disclosed in the Daily Mail, show that he recorded in September that Mr McKinnon, 43, suffered from a “‘very serious Major Depressive Disorder…. aggravated and complicated by anxiety and panic attacks with multiple psychosomatic symptoms on a background of his having Asperger’s syndrome”.
But following the failure of Mr McKinnon’s bid to have his case heard at the Supreme Court, he concluded that he was now “at an even higher risk of self harm and suicide”, something he said was a “real probability”.
Mr Johnson, who was shown the report, said that he felt the information he had seen was “not materially different from that placed before the High Court earlier this year” when Mr McKinnon lost his earlier legal challenge.
He added: “It is clear from the proceedings to date that Mr McKinnon will not, if convicted, serve any of his sentence in a supermax prison.
“Should Mr McKinnon be extradited, charged and convicted in the US and seek repatriation to the UK to serve a custodial sentence, the Government will of course progress his application at the very earliest opportunity.”
The family, who were informed of Mr Johnson’s decision on Thursday, are now set to apply for a judicial review in a bid to stop his extradition.
The decision was almost universally criticised by opposition MPs, campaigners.
Mrs Sharp said: “To force a peaceful, vulnerable, misguided UFO fanatic like Gary thousands of miles away from his much-needed support network is barbaric.
“This is a cruel and miserable decision.
“If the severity of Gary’s medical condition isn’t sufficient to prevent his extradition, I can’t imagine what is. God help others facing a similar fate. I’m so upset and angry.”
She added: “Where are the ‘very real safeguards’ that the Government consistently hid behind when forcing this appalling Act through Parliament.
“The only people who won’t get extradited are terrorists facing the death sentence, the very people the Act was meant to be about.
“What bitter irony.”
Mrs Sharp said her legal team would now apply for a judicial review, but if that was not granted then her son could be extradited before Christmas.
“What a heartless and cowardly decision this is,” she said.
Mrs Sharp wept as she told how she broke the news to Mr McKinnon.
She said: “He was very, very bad. He was very quiet – and I am more worried when he is quiet. I have got concerns for Gary. Alan Johnson has made the wrong decision. It is just awful.”
Mr McKinnon’s lawyer, Karen Todner, said: “It’s a devastating blow but we are not going to give up.
“We are certainly coming to the end of the road.
“We’re just hoping at some point someone sees sense and steps in.
“All the legal team do know is we cannot give up because in some ways it’s like dealing with a Death Row case, and we genuinely believe that Gary’s life is at stake here.”
Another of his legal team said: “It is a miserable decision that we fundamentally disagree with – he could be gone by Christmas. We are considering all our legal avenues. What does it take for someone not to be extradited?”
She added that she planned to issue judicial review proceedings next week, but added: “We are normally allowed three months to issue but the Home Secretary has only allowed us seven days.”
Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the home affairs select committee which has pressed Mr Johnson directly not to extradite Mr McKinnon, said: “I am very disappointed at this decision. This is the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.”
Last month Mr Johnson threw a lifeline to Mr McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism, with a promise to examine new medical evidence “very carefully” before deciding on his extradition last month.
However in an emailed letter to Mrs Sharp, Mr Johnson is understood to have said that a decision to block the extradition of Mr McKinnon was not in his control.
During an earlier legal battle in the summer, judges warned Mr McKinnon, who is accused of hacking into networks at the Pentagon and Nasa from his flat in north London, might kill himself if he was extradited.
The legal process, which had been paused while Mr Johnson considered the medical evidence, will now start again, with legal sources suggesting Mr McKinnon could be extradited by Christmas.
Mr McKinnon’s lawyers can either seek a fresh emergency judicial review of Mr Johnson’s decision at the High Court within the next seven days or appeal to the European Court of Human Rights within the next 14 days.
David Burrowes, the Conservatives’ shadow justice minister and Mr McKinnon’s local MP, said: “It is extremely disappointing that the repeated calls for compassion and justice for Gary have been ignored by the Home Secretary.
“Despite substantial medical grounds giving Alan Johnson the opportunity to stop the extradition, he has washed his hands of Gary.
“The decision flies in the face of the medical evidence, which showed the serious risks to his health and life if extradition was to be granted.”
Mr Vaz added: “The unanimous view of the Home Affairs Select Committee was that the Home Secretary has the power to intervene.
“His [Alan Johnson’s] decision has important constitutional implications if he is not prepared to use his discretion even though he is allowed to so no matter how narrow the scope.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society which has been campaigning on behalf of Mr McKinnon, said: “We are bitterly disappointed by the Home Secretary’s decision and feel hugely sympathetic towards Gary and his family who have now been living under extreme stress for a prolonged period of time.
“People with Asperger syndrome are often much more vulnerable than appearances would suggest and can be highly susceptible to additional mental health problems.
“On the strength of recently submitted medical evidence and the support of the Home Affairs committee, we had hoped that Mr Johnson would listen to these concerns.
“The National Autistic Society will continue to support Gary and his family during this incredibly difficult time and as the case continues.”
Mr McKinnon, 43, from Wood Green, North London, has insisted that his hacking of Pentagon computers was nothing more than him searching for reports of UFO sightings.
He is being extradited under a treaty which has been criticised because, while British prosecutors must provide details of the evidence against an American citizen, US prosecutors need only explain the charges to take a Briton to America.
Mr Johnson said: “I have carefully considered the representations in the case of Gary McKinnon.
“I am clear that the information is not materially different from that placed before the High Court earlier this year and does not demonstrate that sending Mr McKinnon to the United States would breach his human rights.
“As the courts have affirmed, I have no general discretion. If Mr McKinnon’s human rights would be breached, I must stop the extradition. If they would not be breached, the extradition must go ahead.”
He added: “Earlier this year the High Court upheld the extradition request for Mr McKinnon. This was after all proceedings under the Extradition Act 2003 had been completed.
“The High Court dismissed a further challenge by Mr McKinnon that extradition to the USA would be in breach of his human rights.
“Throughout this process there have been a number of assurances. Firstly due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon’s health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met. These were before the High Court in July.
“It is also clear from the proceedings to date that Mr McKinnon will not, if convicted, serve any of his sentence in a supermax prison. Finally, should Mr McKinnon be extradited, charged and convicted in the US and seek repatriation to the UK to serve a custodial sentence, the Government will of course progress his application at the very earliest opportunity.
“I know there is a concern on all sides to see a conclusion to these proceedings. It is now open to Mr McKinnon’s lawyer to consider their legal options. As a consequence I do not propose to comment any further.”
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