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back to article Home Office doc 'not qualified' to assess McKinnon suicide risk

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon has refused to be assessed for suicide risk by a Home Office appointed doctor, because the doctor chosen had no experience of patients with Aspergers, his mother Janis Sharp told BBC local radio today. McKinnon, who hacked into US government computers in 2002, has Asperger's syndrome. The 46 year- …

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It's in the nature of the British legal system that there are two sides with contrary opinions, but if this is right, isn't the Home Office legal team being a bit careless in choosing their medical expert? More than that, what sort of Doctor would accept the job, knowing they lacked experience?

Of course there is bias in your source: have you believed them too easily? I guess we should let the court decide.

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The argument here is over *which* court decides.

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So, he's not qualified because he hasn't assessed suicide risk in somebody on the Autistic Spectrum before.

By that criteria there might maybe be a single doctor in the country thus "qualified" according to Gary's legal team since I doubt it's actually been done before.

I'm not sure if this is a cynical effort to put the extradition date off yet further, or an effort to expose the lack of medical provision for Autism. I'm guessing the first, since one would expect the difference between assessing a suicide risk would be pretty similar regardless of if you are Neurologically Typical or on the Autistic Spectrum.

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Headmaster

If this is true then either he will

Agree that no extradition takes place after a nudge and wink from the Home Secretary just to get rid of the problem.

Or

They want him gone on the first flight....

So what is it to be?

Might as well ask my window cleaner for a verdict, he'd probably give a better depiction.

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Peter2 Doesn't Know Very Much About Asperger's

Of course there are doctors qualified to assess suicide risk in Asperger's - including the three who have already assessed Gary (with compelling and unanimous results). If you knew anything about the condition and the empirical findings on the subject, you would know this. The NAS even provided a list of suggested experts who have the training and experience to be able to carry out such an assessment - yet for reasons unknown the Home Office chose to ignore this.

It's a shame that you have entirely missed the point here - assessing suicide risk is *different* when the patient is on the Autistic Spectrum as compared to the signs and signifiers of suicide risk typically observed in a 'neuro-typical' patient. As an extensive literature exists to testify. Your post just goes to underline the dangers in this case of allowing comment from non-experts!

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Re: Peter2 Doesn't Know Very Much About Asperger's

Unfortunately I think this is a case of the goverment purposely picking someone they know will get it wrong like AtoSsers for all WCA medicals. Sure they *could* use an expert with relevant knowledge but that would leave them in the position of having a report showing the risk and then deporting him knowing of that risk. Of course this is just my opinion but I dare say that others will think along similar lines. Fuck this government.....

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Bill99 doesn't know as much about Hans Asperger's Autism as he thinks.

Firstly, I did say that according to Gary's legal team. Read it again.

Secondly, being HFA I do have some idea about the spectrum, thanks. As you also well know if you have read any of it; the extensive literature is contradictory, only scratching the surface and the majority of it will be going in the bin within our lifetime. While the doctors the NAS recommends would certainly be better able than anybody else, to be fair I just don't care in this particular case.

I think Gary is a cretin who gives aspies a bad name and i'd like to see him extradited simply to get him out of the papers. He didn't have a diagnosis before being caught, and in my view he's just attempting to use his diagnosis as a weapon to serve his own ends, while doing potentially irreparable damage to the public perception of Aspergers, because like it or not he's the public face of Aspergers at the moment.

And he's infamous for being a second rate script kiddie who got caught. Yay, what a wonderful public image he projects.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bill99 doesn't know as much about Hans Asperger's Autism as he thinks.

It seems Autism is the defence in most cases of anything lately, it's just been picked as a buzzword.

Assange is using it as well, who next...I know, lets assess ian brady and peter sutcliffe, give them an appeal too.

Gary may or may not be guilty of damage, but he hacked....the word here is not how, but that he entered the US computers, just as sure as Annon enter computers and remove lists.

Also you may like to note, that the US has been recognising Aspergers and ADHD far longer than the UK medical society, so he would actually be better off getting his fitness for trial sorted once there if Theresa sends him.

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Re: Bill99 doesn't know as much about Hans Asperger's Autism as he thinks.

Also you may like to note, that the US has been recognising Aspergers and ADHD far longer than the UK medical society

Really? I was under the impression that a British doctor (Ute Firth) did the translation of Dr Hans Asperger's 1944 paper to English which was then populised by Lorna Wing, another British doctor. What had you been looking at, Leo Kanner's Infantile Autism? It's not the same as Aspergers.

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I wish Gary well

Has he be banned from access to the Internet? That's a punishment in its own right.

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Coat

Re: I wish Gary well

"Has he be banned from access to the Internet? That's a punishment in its own right."

I know. After all this time, just catching up on the LOLcat backlog ALONE will take him years...

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Anonymous Coward

Not Surprising Really

If the Home Office has access to the NHS 'specialist' we had to use for an assessment of our daughter the whole case would be 'off', never to be seen again. She was seen nearly a year back and by general agreement meets all criteria, but we are still waiting for a report confirming the verbal message. Hopeless does not cover the horror of dealing with No Health Support, (that is what NHS stands for is it not?).

Mind you we are not dealing with something as straight forward as Uncle Sam's non system. We have the UK government machine with all the horrors of mistreatment thrown in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not Surprising Really

The idea is that you'll give up and go away, thus saving the NHS the cost of dealing with you.

Sadly, it works most of the time. From posts on community sites it appears to be deliberate policy, the NHS doesn't have the money to do the diagnoses they are required to do under the Autism act so they resort to messing you around until you give up.

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Trollface

6 years to work on a suicidal aspbergers act sounds about right.

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Happy

When

is your debut?

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FAIL

Speaking as a 52-year-old diagnosed Aspie. This is not an unusual situation.

Would it surprise anyone to hear that there are no therapy or support centres in the UK which specialise in dealing with adults with autism or AS? It's as if the condition disappears when the patient becomes 18.

As for McKinnon's demands for a specialist, then all I can say is that should be the first thought not the last one. The previous assessments regarding the condition sound pretty bloody accurate to me.

In 2006 I went to the US on my own, voluntarily, and only for a month to stay with a friend. I had major problems accepting the change in culture and I appear to be further up the spectrum than McKinnon. When I got home I went into a downward spiral which took me 6 months to come out from. Not helped of course by the lack of facilities here.

Autistics and Aspies think in totally different way to 'normals'. That has to be taken into account when being assessed.

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Megaphone

Doesn't surprise me at all. The lovely wife is an aspie and has all sorts of issues that are compounded by the fact that, as a Swede living in the UK, she faces culture shocks nearly every day and still hasn't fully grasped basic idiom. She's seen several therapists over the years, only one of whom was in any way qualified to deal with aspergers cases and that only because he was an aspie himself. None of the others seemed to even understand what aspergers was, never mind how to properly assess her mental state or deal with the issues she raised. They treated her as simple depression in most cases. Mental heathcare in the UK is completely and utterly inadequate.

Late diagnosis didn't help matters either, nor did the fact that Swedish healthcare is apparently even further behind than the UK when it comes to mental health. Over there they said vad tusan and stuck her on antidepressants that made the situation worse for several years.

When I was a volunteer mediator I spent time talking to more than a few disputants who were also aspies and, in every case, the same basic refrain was repeated: there is no real help. They get bounced through the welfare system, have money and all sorts of pills thrown at them (or just the pills in a lot of cases), but they never get decent assistance and nobody tries to assess the issues they actually present. They're just expected to "grow up" and then treated like retarded children.

Took me years to even begin to understand how the wife sees the world. She still doesn't properly understand herself but we're trying to get her fully assessed and, hopefully, that will help matters along considerably.

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Equador

If Gary really has full on Aspergers or most any other genetic failure on the Autisim Spectrum all the pressure is making his condition more pronounced. If he really had a genetic problem he'd most likely be out on the street 'preaching' his innocence to anyone who would listen: It wouldn't be his Mom speaking for him, it wouldn't be optional for him not to defend himself.

DSM-V and new descriptions of ASD will change everything and help society define chronically ill persons better. New descriptions will mean a lot of dickheads won't be able to claim some kind of fringe disorder that until 15 years ago was super rare but now everyone on the Internet seems to have.

Yay for updated medical reference manuals.

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Re: Equador

Genetic "failure"?

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Re: Equador

I grant you one on spelling the country incorrectly.

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Re: Equador

Yeah... careful with your terminology there pal.

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Re: Equador

He does. His own medical evidence from world-renowned clinicians, and an extensive family medical history attest to this. If you also knew much about AS, you'd know the tests for it are extremely reliable, and it's virtually impossible to get a false-positive. And this much has been acknowledged by the courts - the diagnosis is not in any doubt. As for protesting his innocence, the devastating psychological injury arising from this prolonged trauma has made him incapable of doing so. Your argument is full of holes, I'm afraid.

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Anonymous Coward

I second that

Its not just that we "think differently", little isues like this week's political snafu profoundly affect our everyday lives.

Its a bit like trying to use a computer when it is popping up error messages all the time.

A lot of people with ADHD share similar symptoms, such as extreme auditory sensitivity and inability to filter out ambient distractions.

In Gary's case, it was his obsession with UFOs and free energy that drove most if not all of his hacking exploits.

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Anonymous Coward

Does Aspergers even exist?

Does Aspergers even exist. Is it just another case of the medical profession policing peoples behavour. What next, doping young children with tranqualizers for acting like .. young children.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

Yes, it does. I've a 12 year old with "mild" aspergers. I put the "mild" in quotes because I've no-one to compare him against, but that was his diagnosis.

Knowing him as I do, I can assure you it most certainly exists. He does NOT use it to try to "get away with things", to draw attention to himself. He knows he has it, he knows he's "different", he hates it, but he knows he just has to get on with it.

Nor do I use it, I fought hard to ensure he goes to mainstream education and is treated like any other kid save for the presence of a teaching assistant.

He isn't on any medication, I don't want him to be on any medication, and he doesn't want to be on any medication - despite some seemingly wanting him to be.

I don't even know if he's eligible for DLA, nor do I want to because I wouldn't be taking it even if it was available.

There may be some in the medical profession who will diagnose certain things for certain reasons, and equally there may be some parents who will seek a diagnosis for some condition or other for some ulterior reasons, but in our own instance I can safely say there were no ulterior motives, and his condition most definitely exists.

My kid is who he is, I do not perceive his condition to be any form of a failure, I love him to bits and his ASD is part of what makes him who he is, and it's a very, very fundamental part at that.

Most relevant to this case, is that I know what makes my son tick. I've not yet met another person (his mother is the closest but even he acknowledges that his relationship with her isn't on the same level that he has with me) that really understands him, that can properly calm him when he's upset, that can make him feel at ease and comfortable within himself. An "expert" (and he's seen a decent few of those) simply will not be close enough to the person concerned to really understand him. To that end, I'd say the only people that really know the suicide risk of Mr McKinnon are, unfortunately, most likely his close family and very possibly only a limited number of them.

AC, not because of my son's ASD, but because I'm not part of the "me too" brigade.

Sidenote: For those having a pop at the NHS, sure it's not perfect but we sometimes don't realise what a wonderful resource we have. Have a little google to see how they generally deal with ASD in France if you really want a fright.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

Yes it certainly does. It explained pretty much everything about why my entire life has been unusual, once I self diagnosed 14 years ago at age 43, after my first marriage had broken up because of it, and my current (2nd) marriage was under strain for the same reasons. We (me and my wonderful 2nd wife) saw a therapist with solid experience of Aspergers syndrome who was able to help us understand each other much better and we're very happy now. I can't thank the therapist who helped us enough. I'm also much further towards the neurotypical end of the autistic spectrum than many aspies I know. I'm able to hold down a respectable job as a computer scientist and have had reasonable success in my life, but many aspies I know are unable to have successful relationships or cope with employment pressures in a fast-changing world because of this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

I think they give the kids speed, don't they? Always seems counter-intuitive to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: son with mild Aspergers

You're not the only one - ours took years of early therapy (think Harley Street 2x a week plus private education & shudder to think how much that costed - but it helped). He's now well adjusted enough to have a circle of friends, and sees his difference in a positive way (the fact that it is mild and that he's very bright helps).

It isn't all negative - he's been speed reading since he was about 4, has a memory like a sponge and is very analytical which makes him rather good at the sports he engages in. I guess we've been lucky, but we know how much work it took to get there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

Also I wonder what the condition is that compels people to downvote inoffensive posts.

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Trollface

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

Isn't that what Matt Bryant has?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does Aspergers even exist?

I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me before, but that name looks very much like one of the seriously disliked trolls that haunted acv (when it was still an otherwise-readable newsgroup).

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Anonymous Coward

The medical experts hired by his legal team say he is unfit to stand trial while the medical experts hired by the crown say he is fit to stand trial. What a surprise!

What the case needs is independent experts.

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Anonymous Coward

...and who chooses them? The court?

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Except for the fact that the numerous experts saying he's unfit for trial have actually assessed him personally. The home office are relying solely a single in absentia report (flawed in a number of ways), which conflicts with the *entirety* of the other evidence.

I think we all know which view has the greater credibility - which is most likely why the Home Office, having initially intended to rely on their in absentia report, now realising it would never carry weight, suddenly decided to try again to force an assessment from their hand-picked non-expert. It's so painfully transparent, it would be funny if it weren't so sinister.

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Anonymous Coward

I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.

@ Bill99:

please don't start on the conspiracy theories again. We all know your agenda. Argue a single topic until you are blue in the face, but in my book, leaving messages threatening to "disrupt at the highest level" is incompatible with seeking evidence of UFO's. Even more so when the alleged offender is affected by Aspergers Syndrome which results a single minded and unswerving dedication to achieving a goal (uncovering evidence of UFO's in this case). If he is so affected, why would he divert from his declared goal to uncover evidence: it's simply incompatible with his argued position.

Back on topic. The point here is that evidence presented by either side on his state of mind will lean to each others persuasion. It is job of the prosecution to provide evidence that he is fit to stand trial, while it is the job of the defence to present evidence that he is unfit. Neither would be competent if they took different positions from those. The court is left to determine which expert to believe, when they should be determining his innocence or guilt.

In my opinion, in all cases where a subjective medical opinion is required, an independent expert (or panel of experts) should be appointed by the court, to which both sides agree to in advance.

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Re: I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.

Well now, this is where your argument is a bit wrong. He left many messages on the systems, stating he was a friend to the American people, and asking the government to please increase their security. The prosecutors (and members of the British government, it should be added) then leapt upon an unrepresentative quote, and took it out of context to make it look like his aim was to make threats. It wasn't. And there's nothing incompatible about his position at all, when you consider WHY he was looking for evidence of UFOs. Which you don't seem to have troubled yourself with.

Back on topic, like you say. It is the job of medical professionals to state the facts accurately. And yes, to state their opinions. The thing is, 6 such clinicians (highly qualified in the relevant fields) have already done so, and there was no conflict between any of their views. On the prosecution side, they have chosen (against the advice of NAS) to instruct a clinician who is not qualified to pass comment, but yet who has chosen to do so without having even seen the patient. He's entitled to his opinion, but you've got to ask, what is it based on? And following your argument, if the prosecution believe the only way they can get evidence that he's fit for trial is to use someone that doesn't really know what they're talking about, doesn't that tell you something about the strength of their case?

But anyway, it is actually Theresa May's job, not the court's, to weigh up and decide, which is the more convincing set of evidence: a single, flimsy, in absentia report from a non-expert, or 6 unanimous in depth face-to-face assessments from the most eminent autism specialists in the land if not the world (including independently appointed ones, if I'm not mistaken). Hmm, it's a tough one isn't it? That must be why she's spent two years dithering.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.

Pray tell us, succinctly, how is threatening to "disrupt at the highest level" compatible with searching for UFO's?

If threatening to "disrupt at the highest level" is as a result of or in any way linked to his condition, then he could to be found a danger to the public and sectioned.

Back on topic: I think we are at crossed purposes re the medical opinion. I do respect you comments about May (and for that matter her predecessors), but my point is that it is currently the job of defense and prosecution to find mutually opposite medical opinions. It then boils down to who has the deeper pockets, better lawyers and more easily swayed medical experts. Frankly neither position is defensible because they were both paid for by the respective camps and that way lies bias, not facts. Whether there was any bias or not in this case is not the point; the process of establishing opinion is flawed.

It remains my position that for a truly above board report, the court should appoint an independent team of medical experts to report - in all cases where fitness to stand trial is questionable - not just this one. That report should be binding on prosecution as well as defense. It should not be for the prosecution, nor the defense to argue fitness to stand trial or otherwise: their job is to present evidence to prove or provide reasonable doubt over guilt, not to argue over mental state.

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Is May Competent?

Can someone remind me if a doctor has examined Theresa May and certified that she is competent to make decisions on people lives in the face of a bully attacks?

This whole case seems to be based on some hairy chested bully, ranting from across the Atlantic, not the due process and application of "just" Law.

One begins to wonder what toy the bullies have threatened to withhold from May.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is May Competent?

Only authoritarian idiots get the Home Sec. post.

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Unhappy

So this has been rumbling on for 6 years now. Well as a 'normal' person I'm not at all sure I'd be able to cope with that. I can't begin to imagine how this would feel to someone with any kind of mental problems.

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Linux

Computer hacker Gary McKinnon?

Logging into a passwordless Windows NT box and installing a remote desktop viewer (which he registered using his real email address), could hardly be described as hacking now could it?

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Re: Computer hacker Gary McKinnon?

Not round here. But remember that he's not being hounded for hacking, he;s being hounded for embarassing Yank bureaucrats. No defence secrets were compromised, no damage done, but everybody thought that the Pentagon were useless tossers.

Same with Assange - Wikileaks didn't release anything of real value or threat, but it embarassed the same bureaucrats, and their resentment is why Bradley Manning is never going to see daylight again - indeed the latest is they've stopped him citing evidence at his own trial. Might as well tape his mouth shut, Zimbabwe style.

Meanwhile, with the British government anxious to hand over McKinnon, Abu Hamza still hasn't been handed over to the Yanks, Abu Qatada is still walking the streets of the UK, and the Home Office is failing (after sixteen years) to throw the Stansted hijackers out of this country.

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Pint

When I was young

I don't remember this complaint existing.

Like many other things that are now common place , I am glad I was born before they were discovered.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't remember this complaint existing.

May I take the liberty of correcting you:

"I don't remember the diagnosis of this condition existing"

There is more than one example of someone famous from the past who it's now thought by some may have had an ASD - Einstein for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When I was young

When I was young I suffered for it without understanding why. I still suffer from it but to a more limited extent because knowledge of my condition has enabled me to be helped. One of my 3 children has it, the other 2 are neurotypicals, and due to my aspie son knowing about it he's proving able to make adjustments to his condition somewhat better than I was able to. The fact is that this complaint existed when few people knew very much about it, but society found ways to marginalise us for the most part anyway, apart from the very few high-functioning aspies who made large waves in science or economics like Newton, Einstein and Keynes.

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Re: When I was young

Like Gary McKinnon was, you mean?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't remember this complaint existing.

And there's no shortage of dyslexics who were treated as sub-normal throughout their school years, of course. Like most of the injustices of the relatively recent past, you wouldn't believe it now if you hadn't been around at the time! Indeed, Civilisation is very much a history of politicians and the majorities they pander to reluctantly abandoning one prejudice after another (and they're not all gone yet!).

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Anonymous Coward

Yes I committed a crime but I should not be punished

That's the mentality of many criminals today. They are above the law and will use any ruse to escape accountability for their actions.

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Re: Yes I committed a crime but I should not be punished

I think the argument is over where he should be punished, not if.

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