In a recent Landmark decision, the High Court ruled that UK Citizen, Lauri Love, should not be extradited to the United States of America to face trial for hacking computer systems based in the US.
Love is accused, whilst working with others between the periods of October 2012 to October 2013, of hacking into private companies and several US Government agencies including The US Federal Reserve, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US Army, US Department of Defence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The US Government alledges that this resulted in millions’ of dollars’ worth of damage. If Love is found guilty he could face more than 60 years’ imprisonment.
This appeal decision overturned District Judge Tempia’s ruling at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 16th September 2016 to have Love extradited to the US to stand trial against these allegations.
This appeal was heard by Lord Burnett and Justice Ouseley. The High Court came to the conclusion that that:
- it would be oppressive to extradite Love due to his physical and mental health condition; and
- if extradited it would be a breach of the ‘forum bar.’
In light of these arguments it was held to be unnecessary to consider further arguments of Articles 3 and 8 ECHR due to the conclusions drawn relating to the two grounds.
Love suffers with Asperger’s Syndrome, depression, eczema and asthma. The High Court considered his high risk of suicide and serious deterioration of his health upon extradition.
What is The Forum Bar?
The ‘forum bar’ allows a court to prevent extradition of the requested person if the extradition is not in the interests of justice having considered the factors as per section 19B and 83A-E of the Extradition Act 2003. This was introduced by the Home Secretary at the time Theresa May when she intervened and prevented the extradition of Gary McKinnon who was similarly accused of hacking into US government websites, was a high suicide risk and suffered with Asperger Syndrome.
Love’s relevant activity was performed in the United Kingdom, using his computers at home. However, in considering relevant factors it was considered that most of the harm suffered was in the US and that this is a ‘very weighty factor.’
The High Court stated that significant weight should have been placed on the fact that the prosecution could proceed in the UK Courts. The High Court was persuaded by Love’s connection to the UK. He is a British national, studying in the UK, is supported by his parents and has a girlfriend. He has close connection with his family who cares for him and receives medical treatment which he may not receive if extradited. These connections outweigh factors for his extradition.
Love was discharged however, the High Court stated:
“125. 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
126. 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.”
This is a landmark Judgment as it is the first time that the ‘Forum bar’ has been successfully argued. It is very rare for the UK to refuse an extradition request and this will no doubt have a profound impact on similar extradition requests to the US and elsewhere.
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