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US-UK Extradition Treaty

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

8. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the operation of the provisions of the US-UK extradition treaty. (306222)

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that answer, but Gary McKinnon’s legal team has been forced to launch a fresh legal challenge in the High Court. The Home Secretary claims that his hands are tied, but many lawyers—including Lord Carlile, the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation—tell him differently. Why is he putting this grossly unbalanced immigration agreement with the US over and above the interests of a very vulnerable British citizen?

The hon. Gentleman asked a question about the US-UK treaty. The only argument that I have heard about the treaty being imbalanced is that of probable cause versus reasonable suspicion. I have not heard expressed anywhere another argument about why it may be imbalanced. That was, indeed, the gist of the debate that took place in the House in 2003-04, when the issue was put before Members.

In the case of Gary McKinnon, the issue is completely and absolutely academic. There is no reasonable suspicion involved; there is no probable cause involved; and Gary McKinnon has admitted to many of the offences. The hon. Gentleman may have a question about Gary McKinnon, but it does not relate to the issue in his original question about an imbalance in the UK-US treaty.

In the latest edition of Vogue, Hilary Clinton describes our Foreign Secretary as

“vibrant, vital, attractive and smart.”

She has obviously not met the Home Secretary! Given that very close relationship between Britain and the United States, however, and given that the Home Secretary says he has no more legal powers to intervene, surely the best course of action is a diplomatic resolution to the problem. Will he talk to the Foreign Secretary so that he can talk to Hilary Clinton to see whether this matter can be resolved?

This matter can be resolved by ensuring that the treaty we have with the US is enforced. This matter can be resolved by upholding the law. The courts have decided and the prosecuting authorities have decided that Gary McKinnon is accused of very serious charges and should answer for them in the US. That is not the role of any politician or any judge; it is the role of the prosecuting authority. On 5 November in a debate in the other place, the ex-Law Lord Lord Justice Lloyd made it plain that that was absolutely right. The US authorities have given us a whole list of assurances that Gary McKinnon will get full treatment for his illness from the American authorities; indeed, a long list of the treatment that will be offered was quoted by Lord Justice Burnton in the High Court as being extremely impressive.

With the increase in cybercrime and the consequential complexities in international jurisdiction, what consideration has the Home Secretary given to cybercrimes committed and originated in the United Kingdom being appropriate for extradition?

I do not believe there is a case for looking at this in the context of a completely separate review of the treaty. We have a situation where a number of crimes are committed in the UK and we have another crime—a terrorist offence—committed against the US by someone in the UK, a British citizen, who did not leave this country at all. It is a question of what the prosecuting authorities decide in this case. Let me quote to the hon. Gentleman, because it is relevant to this issue, what Lord Justice Burnton said in the High Court in July about this particular offence. I think that it would apply to other offences where a crime is committed in another country over the internet. He said of Gary McKinnon:

“It is true that the Claimant’s offending conduct took place in this country. However, it was directed at the USA, and at computers in the USA; the information he accessed or could have accessed was US information; its confidentiality and sensitivity were American; and any damage that was inflicted was in the USA. The witnesses who can address the damage done by his offences are in America. Moreover, because the information was sensitive, it would be far more difficult for it to be put before a judge in this country than before a US judge”.

I believe that the legal profession is quite capable of deciding—to use the terminology—the forum in which any of these allegations should be prosecuted.