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Contempt for hacker's autism defence

Date: October 16, 2008

PEOPLE LIKE Pentagon Hacker Gary McKinnon often discover they have Asperger's Syndrome late in life. The UK government is more concerned that he discovered it late in his trial.

On Monday, lawyers acting for the Home Office wrote to McKinnon's lawyers explaining why they thought his Asperger's condition, a form of autism, was no reason to stay his extradition to face 60 years in a US prison.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's scepticism of McKinnon's diagnosis was expressed somewhat insensitively in the course of the 11-page document, which the Home Office has refused to publish, but which THE INQUIRER has obtained.

The Home Secretary was in a state of "considerable surprise" that no mention "of the mental problems which it is now said he suffers" was made earlier in the trail, it said.

"The failure to raise such points at an earlier stage... justifies considerable doubt as to whether such points were believed to have legal merit, " it said.

It went on expressing considerable surprise, but also considerable ignorance of Asperger's and even contempt for McKinnon's condition: "You have not explained why a psychiatric opinion was not sought in respect of Mr McKinnon at an earlier point in time, if in fact his behaviour was such as to warrant such an opinion being sought."

The reasons why McKinnon didn't know he had Asperger's should be readily available to anyone who cared to find out.

A spokeswoman for the National Autistic Society said that as autism was only fully discovered in the 1960s, and then only in a limited community of people, "We have a high proportion of the adult population who have not had an opportunity to get diagnosed. This is more true for Asperger's because its harder to pick up," she said.

It is not unusual for people with Asperger's to live well into their 30s or 40s before they discover that the problems they have had negotiating with the world are symptoms of a recognised condition.

Nevertheless, said the government lawyers, McKinnon is 42 and will have had Asperger's symptoms for years: it therefore seemed to the Home Secretary that it was not a "medical condition that has arisen for the first time after the House of Lords dismissed Mr Mckinnon's appeal". It was therefore not enough to interrupt his extradition proceedings.

Yet Lucy Clarke, Gary's girlfriend told THE INQ on Friday how Gary did, indeed, come to discover his own condition so late in the trial.

Simon Baron-Cohen, world-renowned director of Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, happened to see Gary speaking on the television news after the House of Lords rejected his extradition appeal. He immediately got in touch. Experts in the field have a knack of spotting the condition. He put Gary through the tests and sent the evidence to the Home Office.
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2008-10-18 05:47:22 - Its not McKinnon's Aspurgers problem and... Mike O
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