11:45pm Wednesday 15 July 2020

Kent research leads to national polygraph testing for sex offenders

Agreed in the House of Commons on Tuesday 2 July 2013 – and to be considered by the House of Lords later this month – the legislation will mean polygraph testing of sex offenders, particularly high risk sex offenders, will be undertaken by probation staff across the UK.

Following a two year pilot polygraph scheme, researchers from the University of Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP) found overwhelming evidence to suggest that sex offenders supervised in the pilot polygraph scheme made more disclosures about their risk.

Professor Theresa Gannon, Director of CORE-FP, said: ‘We are pleased to see that our research evaluation has resulted in a change to how sex offenders are supervised nationally. The research findings clearly show that the polygraph increases communication between sex offenders and probation staff which has to be a good thing for the community.

‘Sex offenders taking part in the pilot project made more disclosures about entering an exclusion zone or making contact with children than sex offenders supervised under normal probation conditions.

‘We also found that the polygraph pilot was effective for a whole range of sex offenders, and perhaps most significantly, sex offenders themselves reported finding the polygraph useful for helping them to manage their behaviour in the future.’

The pilot polygraph scheme, led by Kent researchers Dr Theresa Gannon and Dr Jane Wood, took place across the East and West Midlands probation areas from April 2009 to October 2011. Seven other probation areas where polygraph testing was not implemented were also monitored to see if the pilot polygraph testing really did increase the admissions made by sex offenders to probation staff.

The Kent research team successfully tendered to evaluate the pilot scheme for sex offenders for the Ministry of Justice over a two-year period. The other members of the CORE-FP team were: Dr Afroditi Pina, Dr Eduardo Vasquez and Professor Iain Fraser of the University’s School of Economics.

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