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Former top prosecutor confirms Lauri Love has been singled out for unusual treatment and extradition is not the norm

  • Lauri Love outside the courtroom | Getty Images | Jack Taylor

    Evidence from Former Director of Public Prosecutions confirms a “policy bias” towards prosecuting cybercrime cases in local courts. “There appear to be sound and obvious policy grounds for a particular bias towards prosecuting vulnerable defendants locally.”

  • Since Lauri’s extradition hearing last summer at least three cases involving US computer systems have been successfully prosecuted in the UK.
  • Court hears new information about the deteriorating conditions in the US federal prison system

New evidence for Lauri Love’s appeal against extradition includes a statement from Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord MacDonald, confirming that Love should have had a trial at home.

Lauri Love faces extradition to the United States, and a potential 99-year prison sentence for his alleged participation in the series of online protests that followed the death of American internet pioneer Aaron Swartz.  The appeal, which concluded this morning, was heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon and Justice Ousley at the Royal Courts of Justice in Central London.

MacDonald’s evidence comments on a schedule of domestic cybercrime prosecutions produced by Lauri Love’s legal team:

“I have been asked to comment on practice in relation to the prosecution of computer hackers who target United States computer systems from the United Kingdom.

“In my experience, there has been a general practice of prosecuting such hackers in the UK in the majority of cases. The notable exception was Gary McKinnon, whose extradition was eventually halted by the Home Secretary….

“The Schedule reflects the policy bias to which I have referred above, demonstrating the fact that almost all such cases have historically been dealt with by English or other relevant local courts abroad. This seems particularly to occur in the case of vulnerable defendants. Again, there appear to be sound and obvious policy grounds for a particular bias towards prosecuting vulnerable defendants locally, where it is possible to do so.”

Extradition is not the norm – a trial at home is the norm

Since Lauri’s extradition hearing in the summer of last year, British courts have heard at least three computer crimes cases that involve US servers, including military and government computer systems. All have been successfully resolved without the initiation of extradition proceedings.

In June 2016 an unnamed teenager from Plymouth was convicted for hacking a range of international servers including Seaworld in Florida, China’s Security Ministry and the Thai Department of Agriculture and made subject to a youth rehabilitation order for two years.

In June 2017, Sean Caffrey of Sutton Coldfield admitted hacking into the US Department of Defense. He was given a suspended sentence of 18 months at Birmingham Crown Court in September.

Finally, in October, Coalville resident Kane Gamble appeared at Leicester Crown Court, pleading guilty to 10 charges of attempting to hack into the computers of members of the US Government, the CIA, and the FBI. Gamble is due to be sentenced at Leicester Crown Court on 15 December.

New detail about US prisons and cybercrime prosecutions under Trump

In 2013 Britain’s parliamentarians introduced the forum bar in order to protect vulnerable defendants from extradition, after the ultimately successful decade long campaign to keep Gary McKinnon in the UK. McKinnon’s case became the subject of intense public pressure due to his diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and the likelihood that the prospect of a coercive plea bargain and detention in a US federal prison would have a devastating impact on his physical and mental welfare.

Evidence presented to the court describes how US prosecutorial conduct has become even more aggressive under the Trump Administration. In a statement, US computer crimes attorney Tor Ekeland reveals for the first time the impact of Jeff Sessions’ 10 May 2017 memo to prosecutors, in relation to the ongoing case of Justin Shafer in Texas:

“In a formal meeting in a pending cybercrime case, one Assistant U.S. Attorney cited the Sessions Memo in indicating he would seek the harshest sentence possible. This U.S. Attorney read the Sessions Memo to require he seek a consecutive, rather than the usual concurrent, sentence for the charges.

“This represents a troubling change in the United States’ criminal justice system, and profoundly increases Mr. Love’s risk of receiving an unjust, cruel, and unfairly punitive sentence if extradited and later convicted.”

If extradited, Lauri Love is likely to be remanded in one of two notorious New York facilities, the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) or the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn. Expert witnesses agree that Love is highly likely to find himself on suicide watch on admission to one of these institutions, which lack the medical and psychological facilities.

The court heard shocking new evidence about conditions in these prisons. Late last year, a Brooklyn judge refused to send a convicted woman to the MDC because of its “unconscionable” conditions. The facility is currently the subject of a major class action lawsuit, evidence from which has been introduced into the appeal. [5]

In one of these statements, former New York Senator Pedro Espada Jnr, who is currently two thirds of the way through a three-year sentence for embezzlement, describes his experience as a volunteer “suicide watch companion” at the MDC. There he was witness to multiple incidents of “inhumane treatment and conditions” involving inmates with serious mental illnesses. In particular, Espada describes a distressing incident where a “severely mentally ill” Hispanic man was left in filthy conditions for a seven-day period, despite having open wounds all over his body.

Lauri Love’s appeal is argued by Edward Fitzgerald QC and Ben Cooper, both of Doughty Street Chambers, who are instructed by Kaim Todner Solicitors. Liberty are intervening in the appeal. The one and a half day hearing in front of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon and the Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley has now concluded. Judgment has been reserved.