Mr McKinnon’s family were notified of the Home Secretary’s decision this afternoon. Janis Sharp, Mr McKinnon’s mother, was distraught, telling The Daily Telegraph: “I can’t believe it. It is a complete nonsense.” 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 extraditon 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. 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.”
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. One 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?”
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. Last night, 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 gfiving 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. Mr McKinnon 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.
Tonight, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, 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. “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.”