Mr McKinnon has been fighting extradition to the US for six years on charges of alleged computing hacking.

 

Many MPs argue existing laws governing extradition are unbalanced and Mr McKinnon should face justice in the UK.

 

The US ambassador to the UK told MPs last week the existing treaty between the two countries was working well.

 

An independent review of the UK-US extradition treaty earlier this year by the former Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker found no reason to believe it was operating unfairly – a decision currently being studied by Home Secretary Theresa May.

 

MPs have, however, continued to press for action and the backbench debate, secured by Conservative Dominic Raab, has the backing of more than 40 MPs including senior Labour and Lib Dem figures.

 

‘Rough justice’

Monday’s motion calls on the treaty to be redrafted to enable the government to refuse extradition requests if UK prosecutors have decided against beginning proceedings at home.

 

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US/UK extradition rules

 

For the US to agree to extradite someone to the UK there must be evidence accepted by a US judge as showing “probable cause”

For the UK to agree to extradite someone to the US there must be evidence accepted by a UK judge as showing “reasonable suspicion”

Sir Scott Baker’s review said “In our opinion there is no significant difference between the probably cause test and the reasonable suspicion test.”

UK extradition: Key cases

Unlike previous debates on the subject, MPs will get a chance to vote on Monday but the outcome will not be binding on the government.

 

Critics of the US/UK treaty, agreed between Washington and London in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, say it is easier to extradite people from the UK than the US.

 

They say the arrangement is not reciprocal because the US does not need to present evidence to a British court to request extradition, while the UK still needs to present evidence to an American court.

 

The treaty was originally designed to help bring terrorist suspects to justice but campaigners say it is being used to seek extradition for other offences such as fraud and drug trafficking.

 

Critics also disapprove of the European Arrest Warrant system (EAW), which allows fast-track extraditions on the assumption that standards of justice are adequate across Europe.

 

The case of Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome and faces 60 years in jail if found guilty of hacking into US government computer systems, is one of a number cited by MPs as cause for change.

 

‘Vital opportunity’

Mr Raab said Monday’s debate was a “vital opportunity” for Parliament to put the issue back onto the government’s agenda and to seek a mandate for legislative changes in future.

 

“No-one wants to scrap extradition,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “What we want is a bit of common sense and some safeguards for our citizens.”

 

Decisions on where suspects should be tried in cross-border cases should be taken openly in court rather than behind closed doors, Mr Raab suggested.

 

And he added: “The US has treaties with Mexico, Brazil and Australia, giving their authorities much greater discretion to refuse to extradite their citizens. So why shouldn’t Britain, a stalwart ally, ask for this very modest change?”

 

Labour MP David Blunkett, who oversaw the introduction of the existing rules as home secretary under Tony Blair, said Monday’s debate was “likely to get very hot”.

 

He told Today the independent review had found the extradition rules were fair and “there was no way that the US is going to renegotiate the treaty”.

 

However, he said he wanted to explore whether in the McKinnon case “it was possible, using video conferencing and modern technology, for the trial to take place on US soil but for Gary to remain in Britain and serve his sentence here”.

 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had visited the Department of Justice in Washington twice in a bid to get the US authorities to agree to such an arrangement.

 

‘Skewed arguments’

A recent report by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights suggested that between January 2004 and July 2011, there were 130 requests by the US for people to be extradited from the UK, compared with 54 requests from the UK to the US.

 

Louis Susman, US Ambassador to the UK, has said it is not true that it is easier to extradite someone from the UK than from the US.

 

He told the Commons foreign affairs committee last week the US had never denied a UK extradition request and the same standards applied to both countries.

 

The existing arrangements, he argued, had been “wrongly condemned” by some MPs and the media, whom he accused of “skewed arguments and wilful distortion of the facts”.

 

“It would be wrong to view the extradition treaty through the prism of individual cases where sentiment and emotion can cloud reality and lead to misrepresentation,” he said.

 

He added: “I believe having signed the treaty, and having had it tested both through the British justice system and by independent experts, it is now incumbent on the UK to stand in support of it.”

SOURCE: BBC News

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