Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

'Extradition lifeline' for hacker

Gary McKinnon: 'For a change it's slightly good news'

A Briton who hacked into American military computers appears to have been given a lifeline in his battle against extradition to the US.

Gary McKinnon said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had agreed to put his extradition on hold while his case is considered.

Mr McKinnon's legal team have asked the DPP to charge him under UK law, rather than extraditing him to the US.

The DPP will give his answer to the request in four weeks' time.

Mr McKinnon was at the High Court to hear his legal team request a judicial review into his extradition, which continues.

Speaking outside the court, he said: "It's been a good day overall. For a change it's slightly good news - a little ray of hope."

Asperger's syndrome

His solicitor, Karen Todner, speaking on Thursday, had feared her client could be on a plane to the US in a matter of days.

If his legal team can persuade the DPP to try Mr McKinnon in the UK he would face a three to four year sentence rather than a potential 70 years term from the US courts.

The judicial review meanwhile has been requested on the grounds that Mr McKinnon has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, something not taken into account when his extradition was originally granted.

Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading expert on the condition, who diagnosed Mr McKinnon said:

"If, as I believe, the crime was committed through naivety and through an obsession - in this case with computers and trying to find information - without any intent to deceive, without any attempt to hide what he was doing, we should be thinking about this as the activity of somebody with a disability rather than a criminal activity."

Mr McKinnon has always admitted hacking into the US government computer systems in 2001-2, which the US government say caused $800,000 (550,000) damage and disabled systems in the months following September 11.

He has always maintained he had no malicious intent and was looking for material on UFOs he believed the US government to be withholding from the public.

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