UK sex offenders will be made to take lie detector tests as part of their probation conditions on release from prison, the British Ministry of Justice said today.
The three-year pilot project in the East and West Midlands will aim to establish whether polygraph testing should be rolled out across the country to assist in the management of sex offenders in the community.
About 25 sex offenders have been chosen to take part in the tests, which will begin on Wednesday, and between 350 and 450 are expected to be tested over the next three years. Those who refuse risk being sent back to prison.
Professor Don Grubin, who will carry out the tests, said: “Polygraph testing of sex offenders is part of a package that is aimed at preventing new sex offences from being committed.
“Disclosures made during polygraph examinations, as well as conclusions drawn from passed or failed examinations, allow probation officers and the police to intervene to reduce risk.
“Just as important, it is also aimed at enhancing the co-operation of offenders with supervision, helping them to focus on, and avoid, the sorts of behaviours that make re-offending more likely.”
Justice Minister David Hanson said the use of “thorough systems to ensure high level vigilance of serious sexual and violent offenders on their release from prison is vital in our work protecting communities from crime”.
“We made a commitment to introduce these mandatory tests through parliament and I am proud to say that this can now legally happen from Wednesday,” he said.
“The tests will help us determine whether the polygraph can be a useful additional tool in the management of sex offenders, in order to protect the public.”
He said the pilot project would be used alongside other systems to manage the offenders.
Each polygraph session will take between 90 minutes and two hours and will consist of three phases.
During the pre-test interview the subject will be told the questions they are to be asked so they can make any relevant disclosures beforehand.
They will then be attached to the polygraph machine and asked the questions. The polygraph operator will interpret the responses and, in a final interview, the subject will be told the results of the test and asked to account for any failures.
The move follows an initial pilot scheme in 2003-05 which involved voluntary testing of sex offenders and found polygraph testing was helpful in 90% of cases.
Pam Hibbert, assistant director of policy at children’s charity Barnardos, said: “Polygraph testing will increase public confidence that sex offenders are complying with supervision, that they are staying away from schools and playgrounds and living and sleeping where they are supposed to.
“It is important however that this is used as part of a package of measures including greater use of satellite tracking.
“These would be far more effective than the false comfort of Sarah’s Law which could put children in more, not less, danger.”