Skip to main content

Extradition: Gary McKinnon

Volume 723: debated on Thursday 16 December 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current position regarding the request for the extradition of Gary McKinnon.

My Lords, a judicial review of a decision by the previous Home Secretary to uphold an order for Mr McKinnon’s extradition stands adjourned. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is reviewing the case against the sole legal test, which is whether, given Mr McKinnon’s medical condition, extradition would breach his human rights. My right honourable friend has sought Mr McKinnon’s consent to a psychiatric assessment by clinicians recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. A response is awaited from his solicitors.

I declare an interest in so far as I chaired the independent review of autism services in Northern Ireland and currently chair the Northern Ireland autism regional reference group. I am grateful to the Minister for her Answer, but does she accept that inadequate recognition and the total lack of appropriate interventions for those with an autistic condition, which was first identified and defined by Kanner in 1943, have deprived someone in Gary McKinnon’s age group of his human rights and that to extradite him would exacerbate the social neglect that he has suffered? Do we not have a more compelling moral responsibility in this instance than a legal one?

Medical science has advanced through the ages, and we have a better understanding of some of these conditions. With regard to Mr McKinnon’s case, it is of course precisely the issue of the state of his medical condition and whether the extradition would breach his human rights that is at issue at the moment. We hope that he will be willing to undertake an examination, with agreed clinicians.

My Lords, many of the judicial avenues open to Mr McKinnon have now been exhausted. The sad part about it is the particular state of disablement that he suffers. A conversation was recorded between the Prime Minister and President Obama in July this year where they said that they were looking for agreeable solutions. Has such a solution been found? Will the Minister confirm that the Extradition Act 2003 does not require contestable evidence? Does it not work to the detriment of British citizens, and should it not be reviewed?

On the first point, as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made clear, we have a legal framework within which Mr McKinnon’s case is being considered. On the second point, my right honourable friend has asked for a review of extradition provisions, including the US/UK treaty as well as the European extradition warrant. Sir Scott Baker will be considering some of the issues to which she has made reference.

My Lords, having been actively involved in the other place in the Gary McKinnon case, I have read his psychiatric reports that were made available to the Home Secretary before the general election. I understand that the Minister is seeking further medical reports. Does she agree that the evidence already before the Home Office shows overwhelmingly that the threat of self-harm is not an idle threat but is very real? Does she also agree, in the light of the damage that has been caused to the American Government by Wikileaks, that, rather than trying to imprison an autistic savant, the Pentagon would do well to employ Gary McKinnon to sort out the weaknesses in its computer system?

If I might respond to the first part of my noble friend’s question, one of the factors that influenced my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to stay the judicial review that was in progress was precisely the desire to take a second look at the question of Gary McKinnon’s medical condition. The House will understand that she has asked for a separate and impartial view to be taken of his medical state.

My Lords, did the Minister or any members of the current Government have discussions with the Americans about this case when they were Opposition, and were they given any indications about how the Americans would behave with regard to it?

I have not had any discussions with the Americans and I cannot, without notice, answer for other members of the Government.

My Lords, I want to ask my noble friend about the timing of the Scott Baker review. Clearly, this is an increasingly urgent matter, given this and other sad cases. The latest parliamentary Answer that the Minister has given is that it will take place in late summer, which is a fairly broad date. Could we have an update on the timing? Does the Minister not share my regret that this unbalanced treaty was slipped—not passed—through by the previous Labour Government without any parliamentary scrutiny at all?

My Lords, I would hope that the legislature had done its proper job. As regards the review being conducted by Sir Scott Baker, he has indeed been asked to report by next summer. The reason for that is to allow him to conduct a proper review. If I might say so, there is a general feeling that some of the provisions need looking at. If they are to be looked at, they need to be looked at thoroughly. They include such matters as the breadth of the Secretary of State’s discretion; the operation of the European arrest warrant; whether we should commence the forum bar; whether the UK-US extradition treaty is unbalanced; and the whole question of whether requesting states should be required to provide prima facie evidence. This is a long and substantial list of items. I am sure the House will agree that it is right that those conducting the review should be able to do a thorough job.

My Lords, we will clearly look forward to the outcome of the review with a great deal of interest. I hope the noble Baroness will agree that there should then be parliamentary debate. However, will the noble Baroness confirm that the 2003 Act, which was debated in Parliament, enabled the UK to align extradition arrangements with EU member states, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has been instrumental in bringing back to this country people who have committed crimes against UK citizens?

The noble Lord is correct in saying that the Act has enabled the UK to request the return of citizens to this country for trial. There are some erroneous figures out in the open about the operation of the UK-US treaty. The numbers in each direction are pretty much the same. There have been 25 cases of people returned to the UK and 29 of individuals returned to the US by the UK.