Lie detector test training starts for probation staff

Probation officers in England and Wales have started training to carry out compulsory lie detector tests on sex offenders.

Jun 18, 2014
By Paul Jacques
Conservative MP Sir David Amess

Probation officers in England and Wales have started training to carry out compulsory lie detector tests on sex offenders.

From October around 1,000 offenders will undergo the tests, designed to ensure they are sticking to their licence conditions.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said it means sex offenders on licence will now face some of the world’s toughest approaches to supervision.

Legislation was introduced in July 2013 to implement polygraph testing for sexual offenders who are assessed as being a high risk of reoffending and a high risk of serious harm. The tests are now being rolled out nationally following a pilot in the East and West Midlands between April 2009 and October 2011.

Mr Wright said probation officers have begun “rigorous training” to become polygraph examiners, “putting some of the most serious sex offenders in the community under stringent tests”.

Some police forces have also been trialling the use of lie detector tests on a voluntary basis.

The lie detector is the latest in a series of plans to tighten up controls on sex offenders, which will also see movements tracked by satellite tags. Libido suppressant drugs can also be prescribed to further reduce the risk posed by this group of offenders.

The polygraph training is being delivered by Behavioural Measures, led by Don Grubin, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Newcastle University.

Probation officers from the new National Probation Service (NPS) are undertaking the 12-week training programme, including intensive learning and regular assessments, to qualify as polygraph examiners.

Mr Wright explained: “This Government is introducing lie detector tests for high-risk sexual offenders, as well as satellite tagging to track their movements.

“We are determined that the UK has one of the toughest regimes in the world for managing sex offenders, to stop reoffending and to protect victims.

“Compulsory lie detector testing will start from October 2014, once the training has been completed.

“This testing will be in addition to existing licence conditions, which can include signing the sex offender register, exclusion zones, non-contact orders, curfews, internet restrictions and compliance with sex offender treatment programmes.

“Offenders will be required to take the test every six months and, if found to have been covering up inappropriate behaviour, they are likely to be recalled to prison.”

Professor Grubin said: “Polygraph tests can be an important tool in the management of sex offenders and can enhance provisions already in place.

“Previous studies have shown that polygraph testing both facilitates the disclosure of information and alerts offender managers to possible

deception, allowing them to work with offenders in a more focused way.”

Under reforms to transform rehabilitation, the NPS will be tasked with supervising more than 37,000 sexual and violent offenders.

Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg said it was “an important step forward”.

“We must make full use of all the tools at our disposal to address this issue and ensure that offenders are conforming. Probation officers have a vital part to play in this and I’m pleased that this comprehensive training is underway and will have a major impact,” he said.

The study found that offenders who took the tests made twice as many disclosures to probation staff – for instance, admitting to contacting a victim or entering an exclusion zone, or thoughts that could suggest a higher risk of reoffending. It also increased the likelihood of preventative actions being taken by offender managers to protect the public from harm.

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