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UK Court Blocks Extradition of Accused Hacker to United States

by Christopher Zoukis

In a virtually unheard of ruling, a British appellate court has refused to allow a citizen of the United Kingdom to be extradited to the U.S. to face federal charges. The court found that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would be unable to humanely and adequately care for Lauri Love, 33, who suffers from a variety of debilitating physical and mental health problems.

Love was indicted in three different jurisdictions on felony hacking and theft charges, for allegedly infiltrating computers at the FBI, NASA, the Federal Reserve and the Department of Defense. He was arrested by British authorities in October 2013 and released on bail. U.S. authorities immediately sought his extradition, which was granted by a trial court and approved by then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd. But before he could be sent across the pond, a British appeals court stepped in and called for a hearing.

Love, who suffers from severe depression, Asperger Syndrome, asthma and eczema, and who has threatened to kill himself if he were extradited, presented evidence of his health conditions as well as expert testimony as to what kind of “treatment” he could expect in the U.S. federal prison system.

Neuropsychiatry professor Michael Kopelman told the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division about the BOP’s “suicide prevention program,” in which prisoners who threaten self-harm are placed in isolation with nothing but a suicide smock, and opined that such treatment would likely exacerbate the mental health problems it was supposed to address. According to a news report from The Intercept, the High Court agreed with Kopelman and found the BOP’s suicide prevention program so crude and harsh as to actually increase the likelihood of prisoners committing suicide.

The appellate court also heard from Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge professor of developmental psychopathology who specializes in autism. He informed the court that Love “would not receive treatment for clinical depression until it reached ‘crisis/suicidal’ level.”

After hearing the evidence, the High Court concluded that “treatment” in BOP facilities would amount to the opposite of help, and “would be very harmful for [Love’s] difficult mental conditions, Asperger Syndrome and depression, linked as they are; and for his physical conditions, notably eczema, which would be exacerbated by stress ... [which] would add to his worsening mental condition, which in turn would worsen his physical conditions.”

As such, in a February 5, 2018 ruling, the appeals court blocked Love’s extradition to the United States. See: Love v. Government of the United States, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Case No. CO/5994/2016.

“This is a victory for justice. What makes Great Britain great is that we live in a place with wisdom and compassion,” said Love’s father. 


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