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NEWS

Decision in Lauri Love case

editor - February 5, 2018 - extradition

Update: Lauri Love will not be extradited to face trial in the US, the high court has ruled. You can read the judgment in full here.  Lauri Love, the British student accused of hacking into US government websites, will not be extradited to face trial in America, the high court has ruled. Lauri Love, accused of hacking into FBI, US Central Bank and Nasa systems, will find out later today if he has successfully challenged a ruling that he can be extradited to the US. The ruling in Lauri Love's appeal against extradition to the United States, where he faces solitary confinement and a potential 99 year prison sentence, will be handed down at 11.15am on Monday 5 February at the Royal Courts of Justice. Love’s case is regarded as the key test case for the forum bar, a defence to extradition which was introduced in the wake of the Gary McKinnon case to protect vulnerable defendants who could be better tried in their home jurisdiction. The case has also highlighted a number of other fair trial issues – not least the poor conditions in pre-trial detention in the Metropolitan Correctional Center Manhattan, or the Metropolitan Detention Centre Brooklyn, where there is poor access to mental health care. This is particularly pertinent in Love’s case as he is considered to be a suicide risk. Because of his mental health conditions, it is likely that Love will be held in solitary confinement. The case has also highlighted how sentencing can impact on decision making in the context of plea bargain cases. Love faces consecutive prosecutions in three US jurisdictions, meaning that he could potentially face three consecutive sentences which would put him in US prison for the rest of his life. This aggressive prosecution strategy and the long sentences possible in such cases in the US puts intolerable pressure on him to plead guilty. There has been criticism in the US in the past for the way in which US prosecutors are able to add charges and hype up damages in cases concerning the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. One such case was Aaron Schwartz, who tried to take data from an academic website, only to then face a fine of up to $1m and 35 years in jail. Schwartz took his own life. In the US, 97% of federal convictions and a similar number for state level convictions come as a result of a guilty plea, rather than a full trial. As Supreme Court Justice Kennedy stated in 2012 “Horse-trading determines who goes to jail and for how long. That is what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system.” In 2016, a District Judge sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled that Love – who has diagnoses of Asperger Syndrome, major depression and severe antibiotic-resistant eczema – should be extradited, despite finding that there is a high risk he would take his own life. Love's appeal was heard on 29-30 November by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon and Mr Justice Ouseley. Lauri Love is represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC and Ben Cooper, a member of our LEAP network, who are instructed by Kaim Todner Solicitors. Both Edward and Ben previously defended Gary McKinnon, also instructed by Kaim Todner.  

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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