A court has ruled that UK computer expert Gary McKinnon can be extradited to the US on charges of hacking US defence systems and causing $700,000 worth of damage.
McKinnon was arrested in the UK in June last year and the US authorities want to extradite him and try him on charges of illegally accessing 97 government computers during a 12-month period starting in February 2001.
Now McKinnon, 40, is one step closer to extradition after a judge at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London dismissed his legal objections to such a measure being imposed.
McKinnon must now await the decision of the Home Secretary after his objections were thrown out and in one instance branded "feeble".
Judge Nicholas Evans said there is no reason why McKinnon should not face trial in the US for a series of computer hacks which caused damage to US military computers.
He said: "My view is, unquestionably, if the defendant is to face prosecution, it should be in the US. I readily accept, if convicted in the US the probable sentence is likely to be appreciably harsher... than it would be in the UK... but so be it."
Judge Evans added: "It must be obvious to any defendant that if you chose to commit a crime in a foreign country you run the risk of being prosecuted in that country."
The judge also dismissed claims that McKinnon would face an unfair trial in the US. Judge Evans told the court he is confident in assurances received from the US that McKinnon will be tried in a civilian court and will not stand trial under 'Military Order No. 1' which could have seen his indefinite imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay.
McKinnon's defence said such assurances are "not worth the paper they are written on". However while Judge Evans admitted they offer no protection to the individual, and "bind government to government", he said he has every faith the US would not jeopardise its longest standing extradition relationship, which is with the UK, by breaching such an agreement.
As such, he said McKinnon's objections based on a feared detention without trial were "fanciful". The judge also rejected claims that the disruption to McKinnon's private and family life were disproportionate to the crimes he had committed.
Judge Evans also said objections based on the passage of time - McKinnon committed his offences in 2001 and 2002 - would not prohibit McKinnon's extradition, suggesting claims that recollection of precise dates and details would be problematic after such a delay represented a "particularly feeble" defence.
McKinnon was placed on conditional bail pending the Home Office decision.
Speaking outside Bow Street Magistrates Court, McKinnon issued a statement via his solicitor which said he is "extremely disappointed" with the ruling which he will appeal.
- Leader: Should we now doubt chip and PIN?
- Analysis: E-tailer credit card cover-up - California dreamin'?
- Analysis: Does ID management invade workers' privacy?
- Peter Cochrane's Blog: My guide to finding wi-fi