Friday, November 27, 2009

Government's Shame over Gary McKinnon

Once upon a time, you might have justifiably thought that a Labour Government, whatever faults it might have, would at least protect those most in need in our society.

Not any more, though.

Alan Johnson has decided that he is powerless to stop the extradition of Gary McKinnon. What nonsense. What he really means is that he considers the request of the United States to be more important than the health and well being of a vulnerable member of our society.

I argued earlier this year that the extradition of Gary McKinnon amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in terms of the US Constitution.

Familiarity and routine is key to helping an Asperger's sufferer to lead a full and independent life. That's not just me making it up, the National Autistic Society, who should have some credibility on this issue, says so on their website:

"Love of routines

"If I get anxious I get in a tizz. I have a timetable; it helps me to see what I have to do next, otherwise I get confused."

To try and make the world less confusing, people with Asperger syndrome may have rules and rituals (ways of doing things) which they insist upon. Young children, for example, may insist on always walking the same way to school. In class, they may get upset if there is a sudden change to the timetable. People with Asperger syndrome often prefer to order their day to a set pattern. For example, if they work set hours, an unexpected delay to their journey to or from work can make them anxious or upset."

So if an unexpected delay in a journey to work can cause anxiety, what on earth is handing someone over to prison in a foreign country going to do to Gary? This Telegraph report quotes a psychiatrist who warns that a suicide attempt is "an almost certain inevitability".

I'm not a doctor or a lawyer, but it's clear to me that Gary has very complex needs which it's difficult for even his close family to meet. How Alan Johnson can be assured that he will receive appropriate care as he states in his letter to Mr McKinnon's mother:

"Throughout this process there have been a number of assurances. Firstly due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon's health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met. These were before the High Court in July"?

As a mother I feel nothing but sympathy for Gary McKinnon's mother, Janis Sharp. She has fought like a demon for her son and has never given up in her quest to protect him from a fate that she knows could threaten his life, not just his health. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must be for her to have broken the news to him that the Home Secretary had let him down so badly.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne has backed Gary McKinnon's case from the start. He had this to say about Alan Johnson's decision:

"The Home Secretary should stop being an American poodle and start being a British bulldog."

I hope that he'll be taking action in Parliament to question Alan Johnson on exactly why he is so sure that the US authorities would meet Gary's needs when there is no evidence that it's possible. It is unbelievable that the Home Secretary thinks that he is not breaching Gary's human rights by sending him to the States and he needs to be held to account. I also want to know why anyone else in Gary's position would have 3 months to seek a judicial review, yet he has allowed Gary only 7 days. It seems like he's actually twisting the knife even more, as he must know that this could mean that Gary is removed to the States before Christmas.

I feel so ashamed that we have a Government that is prepared to do this to a man who did wrong, for sure, but with no serious criminal intent. He has a condition that with one hand gives him the brilliance to hack into some seriously secure (or not) computers, but with the other deprives him of the ability to understand the consequences of his actions. It horrifies me that the Government can hang a man like this out to dry. If they can do that to Gary McKinnon, then the human rights of any one of the rest of us are similarly expendable. That's why Gary McKinnon's fight should be everybody's fight.


TheBigYin said...

Have you read Tom Harris's blog on the McKinnon saga Caron? He is for hanging, drawing and quartering Gary.

Grogipher said...

Well said Caron. Well said.

Caron said...

Big Yin, I have, and if nobody else has done so by the time I have long enough to do it, I'm going to take it apart line by line. You could drive a coach and horses through his arguments.

Grogipher, thanks.

KelvinKid said...

I simply cannot see why anyone is bothering with McKinnon. He has committed a serious offence which he has more or less admitted and fully deserves to be tried for.

His diagnosis of Aspberger's Syndrome post dates his indictment by over two years. I am reminded of Ernest Saunders being diagnosed as suffering from Altzheimer's, a disease he miraculously recovered from once he had obtained a reduced sentence. This affair strikes me as yet another case of vocal middle-class opposition to facing due process for crime, along the lines of the Nat-West Three. See


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