A man who was jailed for sex offences after a sting operation by paedophile hunters has been given the go-ahead to appeal his conviction to the UK's highest court.

The test case at the Supreme Court involving Glasgow man Mark Sutherland, 37, will decide whether evidence gathered by the vigilante groups can be used in future court prosecutions.

Sutherland was jailed for two years at Glasgow Sheriff Court last October after he sent explicit pictures and made arrangements to meet a 13-year-old boy on dating app Grindr.

Sutherland is confronted at the bus station

But the person he was talking to was Paul Devine, part of a group called Groom Resisters Scotland.

Two members of the group went to Partick bus station in January, 2018, to meet Sutherland and stayed with him until police arrived.

His legal team appealed the conviction at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh but it was rejected by a panel of three judges.

However, Sutherland has now been granted leave to appeal his case to the Supreme Court in London.

His lawyers argue that the evidence against him was obtained unlawfully and breached his human rights.

They said Mr Devine was used as a 'covert human intelligence source' by police without authorisation under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act (Ripsa) - which allows public bodies to carry out undercover operations.

More than 100 people have been confronted by vigilantes in Scotland, resulting in dozens of child abuse suspects appearing in court.

The paedophile hunters have set up undercover operations where they pose as children online and enter into conversations with adults on dating apps.

Creep Mark Sutherland was jailed for 12 years

Meetings are then set up with alleged sexual offenders and the confrontations are filmed and posted on Facebook.

However, senior police officers have said they have serious concerns over the activities of these vigilante groups.

After a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sutherland was unanimously convicted of charges under the Sexual Offences Act between 18 and 31 January, 2018.

This included going to meet who he believed to be a 13-year-old with the intention of engaging in "unlawful sexual activity".

In September, appeal court judges in Edinburgh refused Sutherland's bid to overturn his conviction after ruling the group's actions did not breach his human rights.

Mark Sutherland will appeal his conviction

The law lords said their activities did not require official authorisation and were "justified" on public safety grounds.

Delivering his judgement. the Lord Justice General, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Brodie and Lord Malcolm, said: "Some may disapprove of the activities of paedophile hunter organisations. They may consider that they should be banned or regulated.

"As matters stand, they are free to carry out their own investigations into criminal behaviour and to report it to the police or

directly to the Crown.

"They are far from being alone in such activity. Security firms, shops, gamekeepers, neighbourhood watch schemes all do so, even if the results of their activities are not normally published on social media."

One senior lawyer said the Supreme Court's ruling would have ramifications for all future cases involving evidence gathered by paedophile hunter groups.

He said: "This is a test case and will decide this matter one way or another.

"Issue has been taken with the admissibility of this type of evidence in a number of cases and it is something that has caused concern among the legal fraternity.

"The Scottish appeal court have given their decision on it and the Supreme Court can now give a definitive ruling."

Last year, Detective Superintendent Elaine Galbraith, of Police Scotland, urged the groups to "let the police do their job".

She said: "It's understandable that people want to protect children from harm but we would ask them not to take the law into their own hands.

"Revealing the identity of suspected offenders can jeopardise ongoing investigations."

A High Court spokeswoman confirmed Sutherland has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Public Defence Solicitors' Office in Glasgow, who are representing Sutherland, declined to comment.

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