Feeds

Sex crime 'lie detector' pilot could prompt wider use

More crims to be made to sweat?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Paedophiles and other sex offenders on probation will face compulsory "lie detector" tests from next month, The Register has learned.

The academic who will run the tests of controversial polygraph technology on sex offenders for the government believes a successful trial will lead to its use in other crimes.

From late April, sex offenders released on licence in the West and East Midlands* National Offender Management Service (NOMS) areas will be required to undergo a polygraph examination within three months of release, and then at six week intervals until their probation is served. The first licences including compulsory testing have already been granted.

Then-Home Secretary David Blunkett first indicated government support for compulsory testing of sex offenders in 2004, but unspecific plans for a trial scheme this year weren't announced until last September.

Offenders who refuse to submit to the programme will violate their licence conditions and be sent back to prison. It's expected that by the end of the trial between 600 and 1,000 primarily child sex offenders will be subject to regular examinations.

Newcastle University's Professor Don Grubin, who will run the three-year experiment for the Ministry of Justice, said at the end of the trial the government will have to decide whether to use polygraph testing nationally, and whether to extend it to other crimes.

"We need to not outrun the evidence, but provided there is good evidence of success, I would say the argument then needs to be turned to 'what's the justification for not using it [for other offences]?'," he said, citing US authorities who have use polygraph testing in drug addiction and domestic violence probation.

Grubin previously ran smaller, voluntary trials of sex offender polygraph testing for the government between 2003 and 2005. During examinations, volunteers were asked about their contact with children, for example. Researchers found that offenders were more likely to make disclosures about their behaviour if challenged with polygraph results indicating they had lied or withheld information.

According to the Polygraph Rules 2009, the statutory instrument recently approved to govern the new trial, "a polygraph examination must include... at least one, but not more than four, relevant questions."

The laws to allow compulsory polygraph testing by probation services, brought in during 2007, do not limit the technology to sex crimes. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the government was not currently considering polygraph testing for non-sexual offences and couldn't say whether it will be considered in future. "We'd have to analyse the outcome of the trial before we'd look at that," she said.

The main equipment supplier for the trial will be Indiana-based manufacturer LaFayette. Its polygraphs measure heart rate, sweating and breathing (abdominal and chest).

Polygraph testing of sex offenders is in widespread use in the US, but according to Grubin, "it varies in terms of how mandatory it is". "The problem is there has been a lack of good data on its effectiveness," he said.

Grubin added that given the vulnerability of polygraphs to faking, no decisions about the management of recently-released sex offenders would be made solely on the basis of their results. ®

*The specific prisons and probation offices covered by NOMS East and West Midlands are listed here and here.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy
Even Moore's Law can't help the architects of statism now
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
New voting rules leave innocent Brits at risk of SPAM TSUNAMI
Read the paperwork very carefully - or fall victim to marketing shysters
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.