Daily Mail: You CAN save Gary McKinnon: MPs' bombshell letter explodes Home Secretary's claim that law makes him powerless to halt extradition

The Daily Mail reports on the letter from the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, which has an inbuilt Labour government majority, and is chaired by the former Labour Minister Keith Vaz:

You CAN save Gary McKinnon: MPs' bombshell letter explodes Home Secretary's claim that law makes him powerless to halt extradition

By James Slack and Michael Seamark
Last updated at 1:13 AM on 13th November 2009

Alan Johnson was last night told by a powerful group of MPs that he can and must halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon.

In a devastating letter, the Home Affairs Select Committee flatly rejected Mr Johnson's claim that he is powerless to intervene.


The letter from Mr Vaz - a former minister - to the Home Secretary says: 'We received a clear legal opinion... that the scope for the exercise of discretion by the Home Secretary is greater than you believe.

'Because of Mr McKinnon's precarious state of mental health, the Committee is of the view that he should not be extradited to the U.S.A. and you should exercise your discretion in this case.'


Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'The Home Affairs Select Committee is telling Alan Johnson what he has already been told and what he should have known.

'It is not in the interests of justice to send a British citizen with mental health problems to face decades in an American jail.

'The Home Secretary must put an end to this shameful episode and then renegotiate the extradition treaty so this fiasco is not repeated.'

The evidence the Mail obtained from human rights QC Tim Owen and Julian Knowles, a leading extradition lawyer, categorically stated: 'The Extradition Act 2003 gives the English courts the primary responsibility - but, importantly, not the exclusive responsibility - for ensuring that... safeguards are maintained. This is because both the courts and the Home Secretary have a role to play in extradition.

'It is therefore plain that the Home Secretary has the power - and indeed the duty - to intervene in any extradition case even after the court process has ended if the evidence establishes that there is a real risk of a human rights breach should extradition proceed.

'Statements made to the contrary by the Government are obviously and plainly wrong.'

Lord Carlile, Mr Johnson's adviser on terror laws, has also said he is satisfied that the minister does have the power.

He said placing Gary at the mercy of the U.S. courts would be 'disproportionate, unnecessary and unconscionable'.

Why is it so hard for this Labour government to admit that they are wrong ?

Last night, a Home Office spokesman said: 'The Home Secretary has maintained throughout the proceedings that he has no general discretion to refuse extradition. At this stage in the case the sole issue is whether extradition would, or would not, breach Mr McKinnon's human rights.

'Unless the evidence shows that extradition would breach the European Convention on Human Rights it would be unlawful to refuse extradition.'