The alleged computer hacker Lauri Love faces a wait of several weeks to find out if he has successfully challenged a ruling that he can be extradited to the US.
Two senior judges sitting at the High Court in London yesterday reserved their decision in Love’s appeal to a date to be fixed.
Lord Burnett of Maldon, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, and Mr Justice Ouseley heard that extradition would not be in the “interests of justice” for several reasons, including the “high risk” that Love, who has Asperger’s syndrome, would kill himself.
Edward Fitzgerald, QC, of Doughty Street Chambers in London, told the court that there were “overwhelming reasons of justice and humanity” why any trial should take place in the UK.
Love, 32, who lives with his parents near Newmarket in Suffolk and who also suffers from a depressive illness and severe eczema, was in court on the second day of the hearing.
Authorities in the US have been fighting for Love to face trial on charges of cyberhacking, which could mean a sentence of up to 99 years in prison if he is found guilty.
Love is alleged to have stolen huge amounts of data from agencies including the Federal Reserve, the US army, the defence department, Nasa and the FBI in a spate of online attacks in 2012 and 2013. Last year, a district judge at Westminster magistrates’ court ruled that Love could be extradited. The High Court proceedings have been launched to challenge that ruling.
Fitzgerald argued that the “proper place for him to be tried, if he is to be tried, is in the UK and not in the US”. The QC added that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him because of his severe mental disorders.
Peter Caldwell, an extradition specialist barrister at Drystone Chambers in London, represented the US government and said in a written argument that the district judge’s conclusion on extradition was “reasonably open to her on the findings of fact she made”.
Having identified a high risk of suicide, the district judge had “properly assessed whether and how that risk could be managed were the appellant to be extradited”.
Caldwell told the judges: “The evidence of the US authorities established that any risk to the appellant would be appropriately managed during transit in custody, and were bail refused, within the setting of pre-trial detention, and if he were convicted, on sentence.”
Love’s case bears similarities to that of Gary McKinnon, another alleged cyberhacker with Asperger's syndrome, who had his extradition blocked by Theresa May in 2012, when she was home secretary, after a decade-long legal battle.
However May later announced changes to the law, transferring powers in extradition cases away from the home secretary to the courts. Further changes, introduced in 2013 and known as the forum bar, allow judges to block extradition if a “substantial measure” of the alleged offence took place in the UK and extradition would not be in the interest of justice.