David Blackburn

The Extradition Act must be reviewed.

The Extradition Act must be reviewed.
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Like the Natwest Three, the rejection of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon’s appeal against extradition to the US raises serious questions about the balance of Anglo-American extradition arrangements.

It is hard not to sympathise with McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and now faces a bleak future, but if he is accused of hacking into US military files he should, under the terms of the current treaty, stand trial in the US. The objection is with the Extradition Act’s fundamental imbalance. The US does not need to provide prima facie evidence to extradite UK residents; but the reverse does not apply. When on trial in the US, UK residents cannot claim legal aid and have to fund their own defence. And the Home Secretary is not lying when he says he cannot, even on compassionate grounds, insist on a domestic trial. These issues need addressing.

Obviously, the two major allies in the war against Al Qaeda need to have very firm extradition arrangements, but those arrangements must be entirely reciprocal, respect the entitlements of British residents to legal aid. There must also be room for the rules to be applied with discretion, to enable cases such as this to be heard in this country.