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US authorities should be ‘thankful’ British hacker with Aspergers targeted them when it could have been terrorists, court told

  • Lauri Love, 31, accused of stealing details from agencies including FBI
  • He could be jailed for 12 consecutive sentences for accessing the data
  • Love is fighting extradition to US with lawyers arguing he is too fragile

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US authorities should be ‘thankful’ a British hacker targeted them instead of terrorists according to the man’s lawyer. Lauri Love, 31, from Stradishall in Suffolk, is accused of stealing 23,000 personal details of government employees from the US Federal Reserve, the US Army, the FBI and NASA. The Aspergers sufferer and vicar’s son is fighting extradition to the US where he faces 99 years in prison if convicted.

Lauri Love, 31, is accused of stealing 23,000 personal details of government employees from the US Federal Reserve, the US Army, the FBI and NASA

He could be jailed for 12 consecutive sentences for accessing the sensitive data from government systems. At Westminster Magistrates’ Court today, Love’s defence lawyer Ben Cooper said his client did not gain financially from the hacking and there was no evidence of harm to individuals who had their information accessed. Because of Love’s mental illness if he was to face trial, it should be in the UK instead, he added.

Love appeared agitated throughout the hearing, mumbling and shouting in the dock, while about 20 supporters sat in the public gallery. Mr Cooper said: ‘It is relevant in this context, that prosecutors will readily admit there are vulnerabilities in the system that have to be cured.

‘Given these institutions are targeted by hostile foreign governments, by terrorists, it is thankful in one view that they did not get there first.

‘Mr Love, through his political activism, alerted those agencies.

‘Again, one has to look at this in context when taking account of the reality of hostile countries and hostile political movements, who do engage in cyber crime for nefarious and dangerous means.’

Mr Cooper added: ‘He was committed to hacktivism, a form of protest through computers.

‘A very socially isolated form of protest, in which one is not really encountering ordinary people, or the sorts of ordinary experiences that may cause one to question and think again as to precisely how far one is going, when you consider the reclusiveness nature of this type of offending, and how interrelated it is to mental illness. The Aspergers sufferer and vicar’s son (pictured, with his mother and father) is fighting extradition to the US where he faces 99 years in prison if convicted

‘This is someone of precarious mental health who was not in it for themselves.

‘It is relevant therefore that he did not financially gain at all.’

Summarising the medical evidence, Mr Cooper said: ‘Mr Love’s Aspergers syndrome is a very severe disability.

‘Mr Love was not at the lower end of the scale, but on the contrary he suffers from a severe form of this.’

Separating Love from his parents, who are his sole carers, would leave him unable to take part properly in a trial, he told the court. Mr Cooper said: ‘The public interest in any criminal prosecution and any criminal sentence is such that rehabilitation of the defendant is a fundamental part of that process.

‘It is difficult to rehabilitate that defendant if they are so far removed from their carers.

‘There is a very real risk that Mr Love will be simply unable to cope with the separation from his family and everything that he has here, and the trauma of being incarcerated in a foreign country.’

Love’s lawyers have claimed that moving legal proceedings to the US will be detrimental to fragile mental state

Love would be on suicide watch in a US prison from ‘day one’, he told the court. Mr Cooper said: ‘There is simply not enough money or manpower to attend to someone with Mr Love’s needs and conditions.’

It would be more practical if Love stood trial in England, instead of three US states with different jurisdictions, Mr Cooper said.

He said: ‘It is simply more efficient for a single trial.

‘This is a case in which, in my submission, a fair analysis of each of the factors points in the same direction – namely, the interests of justice demand a prosecution here.

‘Any United States evidence is readily transferable. But we also have the point where the evidence was entirely gathered and obtained from the United Kingdom.

‘Prosecution in the United States would not satisfy the interests of the alleged victims.’

The ‘exacerbation’ in Love’s mental health would affect his fitness to plea, and his ability to stand trial, he added. Mr Cooper said: ‘And accordingly, the justice process could be frustrated.

‘There is a real risk of the prosecution failing in the United States.

‘It’s entirely practical for all the evidence to be given in the single jurisdiction – in Southwark Crown Court.

‘And in that scenario, any evidence of those three separate jurisdictions would be given in one go. Without the threat of additional prosecutions hanging over Mr Love.’

Love is accused of working with other online hackers around the world to steal the sensitive information including credit card numbers, telephone numbers, passwords and commercially sensitive data of private companies. He is facing 12 counts of hacking between October 2012 and October 2013 in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Love is challenging his extradition under human rights legislation – article 3, prohibition from inhumane treatment, and article 6, the right to a fair trial. After his extradition hearing finished, Love said he was confident there would be an ‘outbreak of common sense’ and the court would rule in his favour in September. After his extradition hearing finished, Love said he was confident there would be an ‘outbreak of common sense’ and the court would rule in his favour in September

Speaking outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court and flanked by supporters, Love said: ‘We hope and optimistically believe that the court will rule against extradition because it’s not in the interest of justice to send someone to a country they have never been where they might spend the rest of their life in jail.

‘We hope that there will be a sudden outbreak of common sense and we can all celebrate in September, and reassert the sovereignty of the British justice system – the fact that we have a sense of fair play, certain things are not cricket, like locking people up for silly reasons.’

Love added: ‘In a way the barrister for the CPS, representing America, had the hardest job in the room which was to argue the unarguable. His job was to call into dispute the evidence. Unfortunately he is not a medical professional.

‘The US didn’t bring a case, they didn’t bring a single witness. They didn’t attempt to refute the claims that I might suffer from a ridiculous sentence, that I might be treated inhumanely, that I might be effectively tortured because of my mental health difficulties.

‘So it was harrowing to suffer the insinuation that I might have made this all up.

‘I have wrestled with mental health difficulties all my life. But that’s part of this game. And I don’t think the court was swayed by those arguments.’

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