Lie detectors ‘help manage sex offenders’

Submitting sex offenders to lie detector tests makes an “important contribution” to the way they are treated and managed on probation, a new report finds.

The review of a two-year pilot scheme across ten areas in England finds that voluntary tests throw up helpful information about a sex offender’s continuing risk to the public.

More than 90 per cent of probation officers said the lie detectors were very or somewhat helpful in their work, and two thirds said the tests unearthed new information.

Between 10 and 20 per cent of these new disclosures were judged “serious”, revealing specific breaches of an offenders’ licence or actual new offences. A quarter were of “medium” seriousness, showing up possible preparations for reoffending.

The Home Office review urges the government to carry out further research into using polygraph tests in the probation system, in particular whether making them compulsory brings similar results.

About 350 offenders volunteered for the project, which was aimed at gathering information on risk behaviour and recommends changes in treatment and supervision.

The review concluded: “This pilot has demonstrated that the use of polygraph testing in probation sex offender treatment programmes is feasible, practical, and can be implemented effectively.

“Evidence arising from the pilot indicates that polygraphy has the potential to make an important contribution to the treatment and supervision of sex offenders on probation, contributing to public safety by enabling probation officers to better monitor risk and to bring about more effective and timely interventions.”

Also published today was an interim report of the Home Office review in managing child sex offenders, which suggests giving members of the public greater access to information about paedophiles in their area.

It proposes “two-way disclosure”, where parents could make specific requests about local risks, and also recommends police and social services be allowed to inform single mothers about the sex offender status of a potential partner.

“Controlled disclosure on offenders is an important public protection tool,” the report says. It also calls for awareness campaigns to inform parents on how to protect their children from sexual attacks.