27 November 2009

Keeping faith with Alan Johnson

Even the Coffee House blog can see the merits of Alan Johnson:

It's a truism that in order to have a sensible debate, you've got to be willing to actually have a debate – so it's encouraging that Johnson is taking this more conciliatory approach to the question of immigration.  And it also reflects well on him, as you suspect some of his more tribal government colleagues (and there are plenty of them) would have dealt with the question differently.  All in all, you can chalk it up as more fuel for John Rentoul's AJ4PM campaign.

How true, but “little local difficulties” do pop up from time to time.

Having “stopped the clock” in an attempt to halt Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the US, Alan Johnson has now allowed it to go ahead:

I have carefully considered the representations in the case of Gary McKinnon.

I am clear that the information is not materially different from that placed before the High Court earlier this year and does not demonstrate that sending Mr McKinnon to the United States would breach his human rights.

As the courts have affirmed, I have no general discretion. If Mr McKinnon's human rights would be breached, I must stop the extradition. If they would not be breached, the extradition must go ahead.

Earlier this year the High Court upheld the extradition request for Mr McKinnon. This was after all proceedings under the Extradition Act 2003 had been completed.

The High Court dismissed a further challenge by Mr McKinnon that extradition to the USA would be in breach of his human rights.

Throughout this process there have been a number of assurances. Firstly due to legitimate concerns over Mr McKinnon's health, we have sought and received assurances from the United States authorities that his needs will be met. These were before the High Court in July.

It is also clear from the proceedings to date that Mr McKinnon will not, if convicted, serve any of his sentence in a supermax prison. Finally, should Mr McKinnon be extradited, charged and convicted in the US and seek repatriation to the UK to serve a custodial sentence, the Government will of course progress his application at the very earliest opportunity.

I know there is a concern on all sides to see a conclusion to these proceedings. It is now open to Mr McKinnon's lawyer to consider their legal options. As a consequence I do not propose to comment any further.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said:

The shoddy treatment of this vulnerable man should demonstrate that our rotten extradition laws need urgent reform.

It is unfortunate that this controversial case should have arisen at the present time, however Johnson does have to into take account the law as it stands at the present time.  With that in mind, it shouldn't have a bearing in his somewhat hidden ambition to lead the Labour party.

Whether it will do or not, remains to be seen.

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