The Deputy Prime Minister has ordered a new inquiry into extraditions between Britain and the U.S.
His surprise move will raise hopes that Sir Scott Baker’s controversial report into extradition laws will be thrown into the bin. The report’s findings would lead to no change in extradition laws considered hugely unfair to British citizens. But the Tories will find it harder to accept the findings if they are opposed by their Liberal Democrat partners.
Mr Clegg’s intervention was welcomed by the mother of Gary, the Asperger’s sufferer who is being extradited to the U.S. on computer hacking charges.
Janis Sharp said: ‘This is fantastic news and a very positive development for Gary. We all know that Nick Clegg, along with many others before they came into government, were publicly insisting that Gary must not be extradited.
‘Everyone believes that the Baker report was a whitewash and this new inquiry is an opportunity for them to belatedly keep their word – and stand up for British citizens.’
The Baker review concluded that the Extradition Act was not lopsided in favour of the U.S. – despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
The U.S. requires ‘sufficient evidence to establish probable cause’ before agreeing to extradite anyone to the UK, while Britons going in the opposite direction are not afforded the same protection.
Figures released by Sir Scott showed that between January 2004 and July 2011, there were 130 requests by the U.S. for people to be extradited from the UK, compared with 54 requests from the UK to America.
The new inquiry ordered by Mr Clegg – which will be led by ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell – will examine the issue again.
It will also consider the case for introducing the ‘forum bar’ in the UK.
‘Forum’ – which means people are dealt with in the country where the bulk of their crimes are committed – would have allowed Gary to be tried in the UK.
Instead he risks being bundled on a plane to America – where, experts fear, he could take his own life.
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Gary, 45, who searched NASA computers from his North London home looking for evidence of ‘little green men’, is facing extradition to the U.S. on computer hacking charges. His extradition, the subject of the Mail’s ‘An Affront to British Justice’ campaign, was temporarily halted by Home Secretary Theresa May last year. She is currently re-considering his case.
A source close to Mr Clegg said: ‘There is a strong view among Liberal Democrats that Baker’s findings are genuinely questionable.
‘The fear is that the Conservatives will accept the findings of the Baker review and nothing will change in the extradition arrangements between Britain and the U.S. Nick made clear his views on the treaty in Opposition and he wants a second opinion.’
Mr Clegg has ordered the review in his capacity as Lib Dem leader, rather than as Deputy Prime Minister.
The Baker review was officially commissioned by the Government so he cannot commission a second ministerial investigation.
But the fact the Lib Dem inquiry is taking place will make it harder for David Cameron to accept the Baker report’s findings. If the Prime Minister did so, it would be clear it was a Conservative decision.
Sir Menzies, a vocal supporter of Gary and the Mail’s campaign, said: ‘I am extremely pleased that Nick has given me the opportunity to consider the process by which this wrong may be righted.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘An independent review into the UK’s extradition arrangements was published on October 18.
‘The review panel, led by Sir Scott Baker, made a number of recommendations to the Government. We are considering those recommendations carefully and will respond in due course.’