A sexual predator has lost a battle in the Supreme Court over the use of evidence gathered by pedophile hunters in covert sting operations in criminal prosecutions.
Mark Sutherland, 37, was convicted in August 2018 of attempting to care for an older child and related offenses after pedophile hunters testified to the police.
He appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that his right to privacy, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been violated.
But the UK’s highest court in central London has ruled that the interests of children are a priority.
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Mark Sutherland (photo), 37, was convicted in August 2018 of attempting to care for an older child and related offenses after pedophile hunters testified to police
The court was asked to rule on the compatibility of prosecutions based on evidence collected during bites by pedophile hunters with the human rights of a person.
A panel of five judges unanimously dismissed Sutherland’s appeal and said that the prosecutor was entitled to present evidence obtained by a “decoy” at the Sutherland trial in an attempt to obtain a conviction.
Lord Sales said the court held that there was “no interference with the rights of the accused” under section 8 – which guarantees the right to privacy and correspondence.
He said: “It is implicit in Article 8 that in order to be protected, the activity in question must be able to be respected within the framework of the values which the Convention on Human Rights exists to protect and promote.
The highest court in the United Kingdom (shown in an archive photo) has determined that the interests of children are a priority
“Children also have rights under article 8. Under this provision, the state has a special responsibility to protect children from the sexual exploitation of adults.
“This indicates that there is no protection under section 8 for the accused’s communications in this case.
“The interests of children take precedence over any interest that a pedophile may have in being allowed to engage in the criminal conduct at issue here.
“Since the state must deter crimes against children in order to protect their rights, the prosecutor was entitled to present the evidence of deception at the trial of the accused in an attempt to obtain a conviction.”
The court also concluded that Sutherland had “no reasonable expectation of privacy”. Lord Sales said: “His communications have been sent directly to the lure.
“There was no prior relationship between the accused and the lure which could be said to have been expected in terms of privacy.
“Furthermore, the accused believed that he was communicating with a 13 year old child and it was foreseeable that a child of this age could share disturbing communications with an adult.”
At a hearing in June, a panel of five judges, including the president of the court, Lord Reed, learned that in 2018 Sutherland had joined Grindr with someone who, when contacted, claimed to be a 13 year old boy.
He sent the person sex messages and pictures and they then arranged to meet at Partick station in Glasgow.
In reality, the person with whom Sutherland communicated was not a child, but a “decoy” – a member of a group of pedophile hunters.
The group confronted Sutherland at the organized meeting, broadcasting the meeting on social media and handing over the evidence to the police.
Sutherland appealed against his conviction on the grounds that the secret investigation and the use of the resulting evidence by the authorities had violated his fundamental rights.