Extradition - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Examination of Witness (Questions 60-78)

Q60 Chair: Thank you, Mrs Sharp. Karen Todner is your legal adviser, is that correct?

Janis Sharp: Yes.

Q61 Chair: Mrs Sharp, it's just over a year since you last came before the Select Committee.

  Janis Sharp: Yes.

  Chair: And the Committee wrote to the then Home Secretary asking him to intervene and stop your son from being extradited to the United States.

  Janis Sharp: That's right.

  Chair: Welcome back. The campaign goes on, clearly.

Janis Sharp: It does, yes.

Q62 Chair: Were you surprised to read this morning, as a result of the leaks on WikiLeaks, that Prime Minister Gordon Brown had had a one-to-one meeting with Louis Susman, the American ambassador, to try and do, in a sense, a plea bargain with the Americans to allow Gary to remain in this country?

Janis Sharp: I was very surprised and I was very pleased. I wish we had known about that because he would have been given credit for it. I was also surprised at the American reaction, because had the boot been on the other foot and they had said, "Could you not extradite someone?" we would say, "Of course not." That's because this is what friends do. They know that it's a difficult position for this Government and yet they didn't seem to want to give leeway at all. There are, I feel, rogue prosecutors who are abusing the treaty, but the fact that the people at the top are so intransigent I find difficult to understand.

Q63 Chair: As you also know, Prime Minister Cameron raised your son's case with President Obama. This is slightly different to what both the Committee and others were told, in that politicians have no role in all this, but you are pleased that they do have, presumably?

Janis Sharp: Yeah, I was very pleased that he raised it and we were given quite a lot of hope by this. I had always been told that when a new Government comes in, if another Government asks them for something, it will be given almost automatically, but it hasn't been. I believe that America wants Gary as an example of computer crime and Gary, because of his naivety, had no lawyer during his police interviews and he admitted computer misuse, but even at the last court hearing the CPS said they have no evidence whatsoever of any damage; they have hearsay. We had evidence from Professor Peter Sommers, an expert in computers, and he said that the alleged financial damage was for security that they should have had installed in the first place. There is a judge here who, some time ago, in the case of Russian hackers who were in this country, ruled that having to upgrade equipment does not constitute damage. Without an alleged $5,000 of damage on each machine, it is not an extraditable offence what Gary has done.

  Gary was arrested March 2002 and had the extradition request happened then—because Gary was indicted by America in 2002, there was an American arrest warrant in 2002—he would have had prima facie evidence. He would have had the right to challenge it in a British court and could have proved he did not do the damage. But frequently the American prosecutors use a loophole of using a superseding indictment, whereby they can trawl back decades and this denies somebody having the right to the prima facie case that they would have had at the time.

Q64 Chair: Indeed. As far as the current situation is concerned, the Home Secretary is conducting a review of this case and your Member of Parliament, Mr Burrowes, has been to see her either with you or on his own. What is the timetable for this because, of course, the Home Secretary announced a review almost immediately after the Government was formed? Are you being kept informed as to how long this is going to take?

Janis Sharp: No, I'm not being kept informed. Prior to this, Nick Clegg had said Gary—he'd spoken to top lawyers—absolutely could be kept here. We had David Cameron say that they would keep him here. We had Dominic Grieve, we had Chris Huhne. Now I am sure that these people wouldn't use a vulnerable man just in order to be re-elected because that would be horrendous. So I'm sure that they will keep their word and they will have the strength to say to America, "No."

I mean in the case of Roman Polanski, France said, "No." Britain has supposedly—well, we're hearing different now but we thought we had—a strong relationship with America, but, in actual fact, both of our Governments seem very afraid to stand up for their own citizens. But we voted our politicians in to do this and everyone here and all of our politicians have an absolute duty to stand up for British citizens, for us to have equality to Americans, and for—I mean tomorrow we could introduce probable cause.

Q65 Chair: Yes. You did say you were surprised at the WikiLeaks meeting the Prime Minister had that you didn't know about. Are you now satisfied that there is a process that is going on where you feel confident that there will be an outcome that will be sooner rather than later? Because this has now gone on for about seven months, hasn't it?

Janis Sharp: I'm hoping that the pre-election promises will be kept and Gary will be kept here. It wouldn't set a precedent as was feared—Alan Johnson said it might set a precedent. The European Court of Human Rights frequently doesn't allow people to be extradited—people who are suspected of terrorist offences. Whereas people, often for minor crimes— You have the case of Ian Norris, where the House of Lords ruled that price fixing was not a crime but the Americans still pursued him for obstruction of justice of the crime that wasn't a crime.

Q66 Chair: You sat in for the evidence of David Blunkett. Were you pleased with what he said; that, with hindsight, if he was given the treaty to sign again, he would look very carefully at what he was signing and he would take into consideration all that has happened over the last seven years? Is this all moving in the right direction for you?

Janis Sharp: No, I appreciate very much he said that. But I still don't understand why our Government signed our rights away, used the Queen's prerogative to do it. To me it's one of the biggest betrayals of British citizens ever under a Government—under Tony Blair's Government, as it happens.

Q67 Steve McCabe: Mrs Sharp, I don't want to put words in your mouth but I just want to be clear that I've understood you. Are you saying that senior members of the Government have given you a promise or an assurance that your son won't be extradited?

Janis Sharp: Pre-Government, pre-election, many people said that what was being done was horrendous and that Gary absolutely should be tried here and that they would take steps once elected. I probably have the wording here, which I can probably pass round to you shortly. There have been promises from many people that this was wrong and it wouldn't happen. But I believe those people would not use a vulnerable man purely to be re-elected. We all know our Governments can do what they want. An Israeli politician was coming over here; someone wanted to arrest them for war crimes. The Government said, "We'll change the law." Our Government can do what it wants and we know that.

Q68 Chair: Just for the record, what Mr McCabe wanted to know was this was before the Government was formed?

Janis Sharp: It was pre-election, yes.

Q69 Lorraine Fullbrook: Do you think Gary's case is exceptional or do you think the extradition treaty with the United States is inherently unfair?

Janis Sharp: Both. I think Gary's case is exceptional because of his mental health, because he was questioned by the police at his police interview without a lawyer being present, because I didn't know about it until afterwards, and because he thought he didn't need a lawyer. So in that case it's exceptional. Also people with Asperger's often relate more to computers than to people. And I think when somebody is physically in this country when a crime has been committed, they should automatically be tried in this country. I think that is absolutely right. Under the Magna Carta we have a right to be tried by a jury of our peers.

We absolutely should have equality to Americans. Why on earth should we not have to have prima facie evidence? Extradition is a huge punishment in itself, massive. If people are extradited they're often incarcerated for years before a trial comes. They also can lose their job; they can lose their family; they can lose their sanity; they can lose their life. It's absolutely horrendous. So that is a huge punishment for a person that's potentially innocent.

  On the treaty, tomorrow we could say "Probable cause and prima facie". Everyone knows it's not equal and I welcome the review but, on the other hand, we voted the politicians in because we wanted the change promised. I don't understand why full forum couldn't be introduced immediately. But I think it should be automatic: if you're physically in this country you should be tried in this country. Evidence should be shown for anyone. We've extradited 33 people from America since this treaty had been used. Thirty of them are not Americans and the remaining three have dual nationality. That speaks volumes. We apparently are not extraditing Americans.

Q70 Mark Reckless: Mrs Sharp, in terms of the review of extradition that the Home Secretary has announced, are your objectives regarding that confined to your son and him not being extradited, or do you have a sort of broader range of policy objectives you would like to achieve?

Janis Sharp: No, I really appreciate the Home Secretary doing this. I appreciate it so much, and, in that instance, it's confined to my son. I know that the Governments worry about setting a precedent but, because of the mental health history in the family, it could not set a precedent because no one else can invent mental health history in their family. I've found out a lot more about that recently, fortunately, and I'm so pleased that we have this in our family because it's a chance for Gary to be saved.

  My concern is—because Gary has a grandmother who was mentally ill and a great-grandmother who was 50 years in an institution—I don't want to see my son ending up in an institution because his mental health is going downhill rapidly, or ending up dying in a foreign prison. I mean either a virtual death sentence or a real one is just not acceptable. His mental health has deteriorated so much; his withdrawal and detachment from everything. Next year it will be 10 years since the alleged crime was committed.

  There was also a precedent set in November 2007 where the British court refused to extradite alleged terrorist Róisín McAliskey. There have been precedents set and mental health is an absolute. You cannot send people abroad to go through this horrendous fear and terror. Gary has been in this terror for many, many years—we all have. Almost no one could deal with this level of heightened stress every single day. We think about it. I think about this constantly. There is nothing else in my life but making sure my son stays here. And for him it is horrendous. I cannot even explain to you how bad it is.

Q71 Mark Reckless: You mentioned that the treaty had been agreed under the Crown prerogative and that promises were made to you prior to the election. Do you think, more broadly, that it is appropriate for elected politicians to have involvement in these types of decisions?

Janis Sharp: I think it absolutely is, but it's preferable to have the treaty equal in the first place so that these abuses can't happen, because there is no doubt that rogue prosecutors are using it frivolously and for things that it wasn't designed for. We were told it was designed for terrorism. You also have the case of Christopher Tappin, who they say was going to export batteries to Iran, but in actual fact it was all a sting. It doesn't exist. An American agent set up a fictitious company. So how could they be going to Iran when the whole thing is fictitious, as in a play, in the first place? This is another man in his 60s. Ian Norris was 67 and had cancer. What is going on when they decide, "This is who we'll target"? Are they short of terrorists?

  Mark Reckless: Thank you.

Q72 Mr Winnick: We all admire, Mrs Sharp, the way in which, over quite a long period of time now, you have acted in the way you have on behalf of your son. One can only, as I say, admire the manner in which you have done so.

Janis Sharp: My son is very gentle. He's a very good person.

Q73 Mr Winnick: I just have one question. One recognises the campaign, which hopefully will be successful, in stopping your son from being extradited to the United States, but do you accept there is a legal case regarding your son, although in your opinion it should be done in the United Kingdom?

Janis Sharp: Absolutely. At the last court hearing, the judge said that Gary could be tried in the UK. So why, when somebody has a pathological terror of travel and is going through so much mentally, would they decide that he should be extradited? It's horrendous. If he can be tried in the UK—as the court has said, as Lord Carlile has said, as many, many senior QCs have said—he should be tried in the UK. Although the CPS say they don't have evidence for the extent of the allegations America has said, they could try him here and these could be included within it. There's no problem in that. I mean it should absolutely be done. Our justice has also always been compassionate and it should be fair, and this is not fair.

Mr Winnick: Let's hope that view prevails.

Janis Sharp: Oh, I do.

  Mr Winnick: Thank you very much.

Q74 Chair: Mrs Sharp, why do you think the Americans still want him? After all these years, with all the problems they have with these cables being leaked all over the world and their own internal security operation, which is clearly not perfect, why would you think they still want Gary?

Janis Sharp: I think they want to make an example of him for computer crime because he was naïve enough to admit to the computer misuse. Gary also embarrassed them. He left lots of cyber notes on the computers saying, "Your security's almost non-existent," and he said he would keep doing this until someone at the top listened, and no one did. I think he embarrassed them. They had no passwords, they had no firewalls. He was using a dial-up connection in a bedroom in North London. It's not like some group of terrorists sitting somewhere. America doesn't like to lose. America likes to win. I think they don't see it as showing compassion or being fair. I think they see it almost like a game, "We win at all costs. People do as we say at all costs."

Q75 Chair: Just for the record, I should tell you, Mrs Sharp, that we did ask the American ambassador to give evidence to this Committee today, but he declined to do so.

Mr Winnick: That's a surprise.

Q76 Chair: As far as the process is concerned, I understand you have concerns with the doctor that has been recommended to go and see Gary, to see whether or not he has Asperger's. Is it right that he's not qualified to give medical opinion on this particular illness?

Janis Sharp: Yes. It wasn't to see if he has Asperger's because the court had ruled that was an absolute and Gary has seen four doctors. It was for depression and suicide risk, but all of the doctors who are expert in Asperger's say that it has to be a psychiatrist who is an expert in Asperger's or autism to judge a person who has it, because they react entirely differently to neurotypical people. The psychiatrist they recommended is a very good psychiatrist but he does not have a background in Asperger's, and it's essential that the person who assesses depression and suicide risk does have this expertise. Karen, Gary's solicitor, has written to Theresa May saying that Gary is not refusing to be reassessed. He simply wishes to be reassessed by somebody who has the appropriate background.

Q77 Chair: Other than these letters, you have had no contact with the Home Office or the American embassy or American officials?

Janis Sharp: No, never. I mean Gary hasn't ever been questioned by the Americans, which seems ludicrous. Certainly they shouldn't start now because he's gone downhill much too much, but I wish I'd been able to speak to them in the first place. I always feel if I had that maybe it wouldn't have reached this point because this sort of case should never have reached this point.

Q78 Chair: As a result of what we have heard today, I am sure the Committee will want to write again to the Home Secretary to ask what is happening about this case, and ask for an answer before 14 December.

Janis Sharp: That's my birthday.

Chair: And when the Home Secretary will be coming to give evidence to us on this matter. I am sure you will want to come and see what she has to say.

Janis Sharp: Absolutely.

Chair: Mrs Sharp, thank you very much for coming today

Janis Sharp: Thank you.

Chair: And, again, Mr Winnick echoed the admiration of this Committee and the previous Committee concerning the work that you've done on behalf of your son. Thank you very much.

That concludes the evidence we are taking today on the extradition treaty. We are going to adjourn for a short time before our next witness comes on our inquiry into policing. He is the former head of the New York and Los Angeles Police Departments, who is on his way, not from America, but from another meeting.


 
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