The US/UK extradition relationship was again in the headlines today as the High Court ruled that Lauri Love should not be extradited to the USA to stand trial for several hacking offences.
Love is accused of hacking into dozens of US government websites, including the Federal Reserve, NASA and the US Army, stealing the personal details of hundreds of thousands of employees and defacing numerous websites.
He faces criminal charges in three US states and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison and up to $9 million in fines.
The case has drawn parallels with that of Gary McKinnon, whose decade-long battle against extradition to the US over hacking allegations ended in 2012 when Home Secretary Theresa May intervened due to McKinnon being a suicide risk. There wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge McKinnon in the UK, but he is still wanted by the US.
Like McKinnon, Love has Asperger’s syndrome, a history of mental health problems, and his lawyers argued that he is at risk of taking his own life should he be extradited.
McKinnon’s case marked a sea change in how similar cases are dealt with in the UK and Theresa May’s decision to block the extradition was the last time a Home Secretary was able to intervene in these cases. The discretion to block extradition in these circumstances was subsequently transferred to the court alone in 2013.
Whilst obviously a huge personal relief for Mr Love and his family today’s decision was also legally significant as the most high profile decision yet following this significant shift in who takes the final decision in respect of ‘human rights’ arguments in Part 2 cases.
The appeal was heard by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Mr Justice Ouseley.
The case was seen as a prime example and test for the so-called ‘forum bar’ with Love’s supporters arguing that he should be tried in the UK.
The Court has made it clear that this may not be the end of the story for Love. In reaching their decision to allow Love’s appeal the High Court stated:
We emphasise however that it would not be oppressive to prosecute Mr Love in England for the offences alleged against him. Far from it. If the forum bar is to operate as intended, where it prevents extradition, the other side of the coin is that prosecution in this country rather than impunity should then follow, as Mr Fitzgerald fully accepted. Much of Mr Love’s argument was based on the contention that this is indeed where he should be prosecuted.
“The CPS must now bend its endeavours to his prosecution, with the assistance to be expected from the authorities in the United States, recognising the gravity of the allegations in this case, and the harm done to the victims. As we have pointed out, the CPS did not intervene to say that prosecution in England was inappropriate. If proven, these are serious offences indeed.
Gherson did not act for Mr Love but has acted in several high profile extradition cases including those involving the US. In 2015 Gherson secured one of the first ever decisions on ‘political motivation’ in relation to an extradition request from the USA to Austria for Dmitry Firtash. Firtash remains in Austria pending further legal proceedings.
Anyone who faces or fears extradition to the US should not hesitate to contact a member of our extradition team.
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