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Theresa May ends a decade of fear for Gary McKinnon

Analysis Good news has been a long time coming
Tue Oct 16 2012, 16:39

TODAY the UK Home Secretary Theresa May answered a question that was first asked a decade ago, must Gary McKinnon be extradited to the US?

The good news is she answered in the negative, and in doing so closed down a chapter of torment in the alleged NASA hacker's life.

McKinnon, who medical experts agree suffers from Aspergers syndrome, might commit suicide if he is tried in the US, which was lining up a 60 year prison term for him.

The fact that May has blocked his extradition is in no small part thanks to the tireless campaigning of Janis Sharp, McKinnon's mother.

This week, when it looked like her son might be spared extradition, she could not allow herself to believe that it might be true.

"Because of the new opinion from the Home Office [psychologists] I am optimistic, but need to hear the words that will finally end Gary's nightmare," she told The INQUIRER.

That "nightmare" has turned her son from an outgoing young man into a solitary and pained individual.

"My son has now been under arrest for longer than any British citizen ever has. He hasn't raped anyone, he hasn't murdered anyone, so can't understand how this can be happening to him, as no matter how much anyone may choose to exaggerate his crime, the fact is that his crime was tapping on a keyboard in his bedroom in north London in search of information on aliens from outer space," she said in an open letter in September.

"Gary rarely ever leaves his home as he is traumatised to the core. A boy who cycled, swam, composed music and sang, now sits in the dark with his cats and never wants to see or speak to anyone."

Presented with this reality, Sharp has devoted her time to keeping her son in the UK, and when May announced her decision many people were quick to congratulate her on her hard work and sterling efforts.

Karen Todner, McKinnon's solicitor told us that Sharp was "a mum on a mission", while earlier on Twitter she revealed how emotional the news had made her, saying. "Not very legal I know but I can't stop crying!"

"My thoughts are particularly with tireless campaigner Janis Sharp today. An inspiration," added Loz Kaye, the leader of the Pirate Party in the UK.

"Well done Theresa May. Absolutely the right decision re Gary McKinnon. & well done Janis Sharp for her heroic efforts to protect her son," said Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston.

"This campaign, led by Gary's fearless mother, united lawyers, politicians, press and public from across the spectrum in the cause of compassion and common sense, " said Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty.

Others were more waggish. Comedian Jack Dee offered this, "Glad Gary McKinnon spared. 10yrs ago US should have offered him a job improving their rubbish security." And comedy writer Graham Linehan offered a simpler "Hurray".

Today at a press conference Sharp thanked everyone for their support, saying, "We did this."

"It's been a life saving decision because Gary doesn't travel abroad, he doesn't go on holiday, doesn't leave north London, to be taken from everything you know, thousands of miles away, is so terrifying to him, I can understand he felt he would rather be dead," she added.

"It's been awful been watching Gary going downhill so badly, but such a relief to see him smile for first time in so many years." µ


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