Lauri Love has scored a huge victory. The US has confirmed that their “oppressive” attempt to extradite him to face a potential 99 year prison in medieval prison conditions is over.
In a major victory for Lauri Love, the High Court has approved his appeal and quashed his extradition. As Courage Case Director Naomi Colvin said, “This ruling is a massive victory for free expression online, for the fair treatment of neurodiverse people and for those of us who have drawn attention to the dire treatment of hackers and information activists in the United States.”
The High Court judges disagreed with the District Court on whether the forum bar should apply in Lauri’s case and on the prospect of proper medical care to treat the likely risk of suicide should Lauri have been sent to a US prison.
Regarding the forum bar, the judges found compelling the argument that if extradited, Lauri’s mental and physical health would deteriorate such that he could become unfit to plead. The judges also emphasized the absence of an argument from the UK prosecutor as to whether Lauri could be tried in the UK. Where the District Judge found this lack of argument to be neutral, the High Court saw it in Lauri’s favor: “In view of the fact that the CPS did not express any view adverse to the prosecution of Mr Love in the United Kingdom on any of the grounds potentially available to it, this silence is a factor which tells in favour of the forum bar, though it may readily be outweighed by other factors.”
The High Court also significantly departed from the District Judge’s handling of the issue of suicide. The ruling states, “We come to the conclusion that Mr Love’s extradition would be oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition. In this difficult case, and in the course of an impressive judgment, we conclude that the judge did not grapple with an important issue.”
The judges felt that the District Judge leaned too heavily on testimony to the effect that no prisoner commits suicide while on suicide watch, the US prison’s term for 24/7 monitoring of at-risk inmates. The High Court argued, “Suicide watch is not a form of treatment; there is no evidence that treatment would or could be made available on suicide watch for the very conditions which suicide watch itself exacerbates.”
This ruling marks the first successful use of the forum bar, created in the wake of Gary McKinnon’s case, to protect a UK citizen from being unduly extradited to the United States. It also throws much-needed light on the US prison conditions, so lacking in adequate medical care as to put suicidal inmates at further risk.
Finally, the judges noted that it is now on the CPS to endeavor to try Lauri Love in the United Kingdom. The CPS has 14 days to find new arguments with which to appeal this ruling. Courage will continue to support Lauri Love and his family until his situation is resolved.
Courage’s Case Director Naomi Colvin responded to today’s Lauri Love extradition ruling:
This is the result Lauri and his family have spent four years waiting for. This ruling is a massive victory for free expression online, for the fair treatment of neurodiverse people and for those of us who have drawn attention to the dire treatment of hackers and information activists in the United States. This ruling will be taken as a comment on the growing international isolation of the US under the Trump administration, and rightly so.
I am absolutely thrilled for Lauri, his family, friends, his legal team and all the supporters who have worked so hard to bring us to this point. As we demonstrated at appeal, Lauri was only ever in this position because he had been marked out for unfair, discriminatory and vindictive treatment. With any luck, today’s ruling will mean that prosecuting authorities finally start respecting the clear will of the British public: we do not extradite our geeks to face medieval punishment in the United States.
The Courage Foundation will continue to support Lauri Love and his family until Lauri’s legal situation is resolved.
The ruling on Lauri Love’s extradition appeal will be handed down at 11am on Monday, 5 February 2018, at Court 4, Royal Courts of Justice in London. The High Court’s decision could determine the future of the forum bar, in addition to Lauri Love’s personal fate.
Last November, the court heard from human rights group Liberty, who said “If someone is accused of having committed a crime here in the UK, this is where they should stand trial.”
Furthermore, former top prosecutor Lord MacDonald told the court that extradition is not the norm, and that Lauri Love has been singled out for particularly harsh treatment.
Courage will live-tweet Monday’s proceedings. Please direct all media inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
See our Lauri Love press pack, including a timeline of important dates:
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. 
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.
32 year old electrical engineering student Lauri Love’s appeal against extradition to the United States, where he faces solitary confinement and a potential 99 year prison sentence, opens today in court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice. The appeal, which is scheduled to last one and a half days, will be argued before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon and Mr Justice Ouseley.
Appeal: Royal Courts of Justice, Court 4, 10:30am
Lauri Love’s father Rev. Alexander Love and journalist Barrett Brown spoke to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme ahead of Lauri’s appeal hearing, scheduled for tomorrow at 10:30am, about why Lauri is fighting extradition to the United States.
Rev. Love argued that the United States ought to trust the UK, its closest ally, to prosecute Lauri at home:
The Americans apparently have the right to do whatever they like, and they’re attempting to impose a Pax Americana on the whole world. Basically, Lauri would be the only person who has ever been extradited for computer hacking. Consistently, over the last few years, we have always prosecuted in this country. And if there’s a special relationship between us and America, if we are their closest ally, they should trust us to have the competence to actually deal with this matter on their behalf.
Barrett Brown, who was just last year released from federal prison after four years, explained the fundamental problems with American prisons:
The thing about the US justice system and the prison system is that it’s very easy for the British to think of it as akin to theirs, and thus relatively civilized as it is with France or the Netherlands. And though we derive a lot of our jurisprudential structure from England – so did Jamaica – the fact of the matter is this is a broken system. When I say that I’m speaking obviously from experience but I’m also simply repeating what all educated observers have said, including economists, congressmen on both the left and the right, newspapers, everyone agrees that the prison system is devoid of due process. That’s something I was able to demonstrate while I was inside.
Asked what conditions were like for him in prison, Barrett said:
Lauri, like everyone else and like me, will be subject to a lack of due process. So whatever particular difficulties arise — and there’s any number of difficulties that can arise for anyone, much less for someone who has physical or mental health problems — he will find that he his not able to challenge those conditions in the courts. So, for instance, if you don’t get your medication, which happens quite a bit, if you are thrown into the SHU [Segregated Housing Unit], in retaliation contrary to the prison’s own rules, you’ll be given a form, the form goes back to the prison, and the prison – in concert with the regional and national authorities – will stymie that process. They will violate it, over and over again, knowing full well that they can. So there’s any number of things that can go wrong for any inmate, particularly somebody who is seen as a whistleblower, seen as an activist, seen as someone who goes after the secrets of governments and challenges them, those people suffer particular retaliation. I myself spent six months total in the SHU over four years of my prison sentence, oftentimes without documentation, without the proper protocols, always in retaliation for my work as a columnist from prison and for doing interviews.
Finally, Rev. Love was asked why Lauri doesn’t want to just go to the US and accept a plea deal:
Today the BBC asked: Why shouldn't Lauri Love just accept a plea deal in the US and be imprisoned for 2 to 10 years instead of 99 years?
Lauri's dad Alexander Love calls out the absurdity of the question: #TrialAtHome #FreeLauri pic.twitter.com/ow1AamhyPO
— Bean (@SomersetBean) November 28, 2017
The BBC feature follows widespread coverage of Lauri Love’s case ahead of his hearing. Rev. Love, along with Courage’s Naomi Colvin, also spoke to ITV News.
Just this morning, Computer Weekly published a piece about Lauri’s talk on the WannaCry fallout at this year’s ByLine Festival, in which Love explained how and why he organised a crowd-sourced investigation of vulnerabilities.
Also at Computer Weekly, Lauri’s sister Natasha Love wrote about her fears of Lauri being extradited: “He absolutely would not be able to cope with the conditions in US prisons,” she wrote.
In the Independent, Sylvia Mann penned, “My partner Lauri Love could be saving the world from cyber attacks but instead he faces a 99-year prison sentence.” “All we are asking for, she writes, “is a trial in the UK, a trial at home. Lauri’s life is worth more than to be a casualty of the US vindictive “justice” system, another young life like Aaron [Swartz]’s with so much potential thrown away for nothing.”
Investigative reporter Andy Worthington, who has written extensively about the Guantanamo Bay prison, also published a piece in support of Lauri remaining in the UK.
There is no evidence that any harm was caused in the US, Lauri has never set foot in the US, the British government has brought no case against him in the UK, and yet, under the terms of the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty, the US is able to demand that he be sent to the US to be imprisoned (in isolation in a maximum-security prison) and subsequently tried (in a broken, punitive system in which huge pressure is exerted to accept a plea deal and a 10-20 year sentence rather than fight and lose and be imprisoned for life). Worryingly, Lauri Love has been openly stating that he could not bear punitive isolation in the US, and would kill himself rather than be extradited, and those closest to him do not dispute this intent.
In the New Internationalist, Ella Matthews underscores the drastic differences between US and UK prosecutions:
The US treat hackers very differently to Britain: if found guilty in England, his legal team estimate that he would spend a few months in prison; in the US, he will be at the mercy of the US justice system. Because of the harshly criticized Plea Bargain system in the US, he might not see a trial and be asked to plead guilty without one. If he refused to accept a ‘plea deal’ and is then convicted, he would face a $9 million fine and up to 99 years in prison.
In The Times, Jessie Hewitson writes, “There is still time to stop extradition of Lauri Love.”
Of course, the one person in the UK who has the most power to stop Love’s extradition is Theresa May, to whom more than 70 MPs have written, imploring the Prime Minister to intervene in Lauri’s case.
Finally, enjoy and share this excellent summary of Love’s case and the various issues involved by Potent Whisper: The Rhyming Guide to Lauri Love:
NEWSFLASH: We have just heard that Lauri Love’s appeal against extradition to the US has been moved back a day. The hearing will now take place on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 November, at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.
With less than a week before Lauri Love’s appeal against extradition to the United States is heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, campaigners are stepping up the pressure to make sure he receives a trial at home.