US criticises McKinnon decision

Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to block the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States has been criticised by the US government.

The US Department of Justice said it was "disappointed" by Mrs May's use of the Human Rights Act to halt the process but added that the "extradition relationship" between the two countries remained strong.

Mr McKinnon was accused by US prosecutors of "the biggest military computer hack of all time", but he claims he was simply looking for evidence of UFOs. It will now be for the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer QC to decide whether Mr McKinnon should face charges in the UK.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice said: "The United States is disappointed by the UK Home Secretary's decision not to extradite Gary McKinnon, particularly given the past decisions of the UK courts and prior Home Secretaries that he should face trial in the United States.

"We note that the Home Secretary has described this case as exceptional and, thus, this decision does not set a precedent for future cases."

Mrs May stopped Mr McKinnon's extradition on human rights grounds after medical reports showed the 46-year-old was very likely to try to kill himself if extradited.

"After careful consideration of all of the relevant material, I have concluded that Mr McKinnon's extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon's human rights," she told MPs.

A so-called forum bar will also be introduced to extradition proceedings to enable British courts to decide whether a person should stand trial in the UK or abroad, Mrs May added.

Mr McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp, described the decision as "life-saving" and added that she had been overwhelmed by the emotional rollercoaster of the 10-year fight against extradition.

She said: "I want to say thank you to Theresa May because it was an incredibly brave decision - to stand up to another nation as strong and powerful as America is rare and she had the guts to do it."