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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Sex offenders in Cumbria to face lie detector

High risk sex offenders living in Cumbria will face compulsory lie-detector tests from next year to ensure they do not pose a serious risk to people in their community.

 

The policy is being rolled out across England and Wales by the Home Office after a pilot scheme involving Cumbria revealed an 85 per cent reliability rate from polygraph testing devices.

Mandatory testing will be carried out by staff working for the Probation Service.

Mike Craven, head of service (operations) for Cumbria Probation Trust, said the polygraph tests would be a useful tool in efforts to ensure the protection of the public.

“It’s important to say that nobody will be recalled to prison purely on the basis of what a polygraph testing device says,” he said.

“There will have to be supporting evidence, but this piece of kit will clearly be an important tool to supplement what we do. Our priority is the protection of the public and we will use whatever tools we have at our disposal as we work to achieve that.”

How the testing will be carried out is still being worked out, but it is likely the equipment will be used by a trained psychologist, said Mr Craven.

He explained that Cumbria was a “control area” for the national polygraph pilot scheme, with probation staff asking key questions to sex offenders who would not be tested by a polygraph test and comparing the reliability of their answers to those given by offenders who were tested.

Mr Craven added: “The testing was considered a success, with an 85 per cent reliability rate shown by the polygraph.

“We have something like 350 registered sex offenders in Cumbria, and around a couple of hundred are subject to probation supervision, though that is not a huge amount compared to somewhere like Manchester or the Midlands.”

The polygraph pilot scheme was carried out in the East and West Midlands between April 2009 and October 2011.

More than 600 sex offenders who were freed on licence were tested every six months in an attempt to find out if they had breached the terms of their release.

The pilot showed that offenders were two to three times more likely to admit to potential breaches of their licence, often before they had even undergone a test.

PColeman@cngroup.co.uk

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