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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 13:41 GMT
Lie-test plan for sex offenders
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Probation staff said the pilot scheme had helped them
Sex offenders could face compulsory lie detector tests in future after a pilot project was judged a success.

The Home Office will now consult on the scheme, which aims to monitor offenders' behaviour in the community.

The pilot scheme involved about 350 convicted sex offenders in England many of whom gave information that helped probation staff supervise them.

Ministers are also considering giving the public more information about bail hostels used to house the offenders.

Offending history

The convicted sex offenders volunteered to take part in the pilot scheme undertaken for the National Probation Service.

Sex offenders on parole or probation were asked about their offending history and current behaviour.

The study showed some were using the internet to access indecent images of children.

About 90% of probation staff said the polygraph or lie detector tests helped them monitor sex offenders and assess their progress on treatment programmes.

The study concluded the pilot provided evidence the lie detector tests could "potentially" make "a valuable contribution to public safety by enabling probation officers to better monitor risk and to bring about more effective and timely interventions."

There's a great deal of scientific evidence to show that they're (lie detector tests) not reliable
Eric Metcalfe

Professor Don Grubin, of Newcastle University, who led the pilot study, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the aim was to use the lie-detector tests alongside other measures.

"The aim is not to catch offenders out who have re-offended. The aim is to prevent them from re-offending in the first place," he said.

"So we use the lie-detector as part of a broader package of measures to try to understand what offenders are doing, what sort of behaviours they're engaging in and whether their risk is increasing."

The Home Office now intends to extend the scheme to see if it works on sex offenders who have not chosen to take the tests.

However, Eric Metcalfe, from Justice, said lie detectors were too unreliable.

"There's a great deal of scientific evidence to show that they're not reliable," he said.

"The former head of FBI polygraph unit has been on record that they're not reliable.

"It's simply unsafe to allow this kind of evidence, if you can even call it evidence, to be used in a public protection issue like this."

As part of a policy review, the government is also exploring how to give the public more information about sex offenders in their area and let them know if approved premises or bail hostels are being used to house them.

A lie detector test in action

Half of sex offenders breach bans
28 Nov 06 |  Edinburgh and East

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