– – – Unusual for the UK Establishment to rule against the US Establishment. Are the times a-changin’?
By Owen Bowcott, Legal affairs correspondent. Extradition.
Rights groups and lawyers for 33-year-old welcome landmark judgment against extradition to US
A high court ruling blocking extradition to the US of Lauri Love, a student accused of breaking into US government websites, has been welcomed by lawyers and human rights groups as a precedent for trying hacking suspects in the UK in future.
The decision delivered by the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, is highly critical of the conditions Love would have endured in US jails, warning of the risk of suicide.
Lawyers for the 33-year-old, who lives in Suffolk, had argued that Love should be tried in Britain for allegedly hacking into US government websites and that he would be at risk of killing himself if sent to the US.
There was cheering and applause in court on Monday when Burnett announced his decision. He asked supporters to be quiet, saying: “This is a court, not a theatre.”
In his judgment, Burnett said: “It would not be oppressive to prosecute Mr Love in England for the offences alleged against him. Far from it. Much of Mr Love’s argument was based on the contention that this is indeed where he should be prosecuted.
“The CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] 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.”
The court heard evidence from psychiatrists who work in the US prison system and questioned the adequacy of safeguarding procedures in US prisons.
The CPS, which acts on behalf of the US authorities in the case, said it would read the judgment before deciding whether or not to appeal. It has 14 days to decide whether or not to appeal to the supreme court.
Emerging from the front of the court afterwards, Love said: “This is not just for myself. I hope this sets a precedent for the future for anyone in the same position that they will be tried here.”
At a press conference later, he added: “I am greatly relieved that I’m no longer facing the prospect of being locked up in a country I have never visited. This legal struggle has defined my life for the past four years. I’m not looking forward to be being prosecuted but I think there’s a better chance that it will be done justly and fairly in the UK.”
Love, who holds joint British and Finnish nationality, has Asperger syndrome and severe depression. His supporters had gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice before the hearing carrying placards declaring: “Trump can’t get no Love”, “Free Love”, “Trial at home” and “Give Love a chance”.
They feared he would be held in solitary confinement and face a jail sentence of up to 99 years in the US.
Welcoming the judgment, Emma Norton, the head of legal casework at Liberty, which intervened in the case, said: “We are delighted that the court has today recognised Lauri’s vulnerability, close family connections to the UK and the potentially catastrophic consequences of extraditing him. This was always a case that could have been prosecuted here and it’s shameful that Lauri and his family have been put through this terrible ordeal.”
His father, the Rev Alexander Love, had said his son feared for his life because he did not think he could cope with the trauma of being sent to the US. He also praised Theresa May for devising the legal test that prevented Love’s removal.
Nick Vamos, a solicitor at the law firm Peters and Peters and a former CPS extradition specialist, said: “This judgment will mean that US and UK prosecutors will need to be very careful in future about how they decide who should prosecute cases of concurrent jurisdiction, and will have to focus far more than previously on a suspect’s connections to the UK.”