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Judges bid to speed up hacking case

The High Court has expressed concern over how long it is taking the case of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to come back to court.

Two judges attempted to speed matters up by listing it for a hearing in July.

They acted after hearing that Home Secretary Theresa May is "considering afresh" whether Asperger's sufferer McKinnon should be extradited to the US to face trial for hacking into military computers in 2002.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, appearing for McKinnon, told the judges it was hoped Mrs May would now block extradition so there would be no more need for court action. He said medical evidence before her showed McKinnon, 45, was "suffering from a serious mental disorder and there is a serious risk of suicide if extradited".

Glasgow-born McKinnon, now of Wood Green, north London, admits hacking but claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs.

His mother Janis Sharp recently called for him to be tried in Britain. She said he was facing his tenth Christmas since his arrest and suffering severe depression amid predictions he could be jailed for 60 years in America.

Arrested in 2005, an order for his extradition was made in July 2006 under the 2003 Extradition Act. That triggered three successive applications for judicial review and questions about the fairness of the UK-US extradition treaty, which critics claim is "one-sided".

Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston, said the case had been "dragging on for a very long time" and could not be allowed to do so indefinitely.

Hugo Keith QC, appearing for Mrs May, said the delays were caused by the change of government, the new home secretary's decision to look at the case and difficulties in gathering new psychiatric evidence.

He said: "She does acknowledge the very considerable lapse of time already passed in this case. She will, of course, immediately turn to considering her position when these representations have been received."

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