British Charity Calls for Polygraph Testing of Pedophiles

BBC News reports on a call by the charity, Barnardo’s, for lie detector testing and GPS tracking of pedophiles in the UK. Excerpt:

Children’s charity Barnardo’s is calling on the government to use lie detector tests and satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders.

It claims pilot studies in the UK have shown promising results.

One such trial found up to 80% of cases showed lie detector tests revealed new information about the offenders’ intentions or behaviour.

Barnardo’s says this helps probation staff assess the risks they pose when they are released from jail better.

Barnardo’s make the claims in its new report, entitled A Risk Too Far? which is published on Tuesday.

It also says such measures will be more effective than the introduction of the proposed Sarah’s Law, which would allow parents to learn of registered sex offenders living in their area.

This is because it believes such a law would drive sex offenders away from supervision and into hiding.

‘False comfort’

This proposed legislation is named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.

Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey said: “Barnardo’s is committed to protecting children from harm, but we feel that a Sarah’s Law would offer a false comfort to parents and could put children in more, not less, danger.

“That said, the current arrangements for the safe supervision of dangerous offenders need to be strengthened and public confidence restored.

“Our report outlines how the use of polygraphs and satellite tracking could radically improve the effectiveness of supervision.

“All the indications are that polygraphs can be effective in helping control behaviour.

“I have personally seen their use on sex offenders, spoken to the probation staff who have used this technology in a pilot [study] in the North East, and been impressed by the officers’ conviction that it significantly improves the rigour of supervision.”

But human rights group Justice questioned the effectiveness of lie detector tests.

“We’re very doubtful as to any evidence that’s been produced to show that it’s a reliable method,” the group’s policy director Eric Metcalfe told BBC News.

“In our view, this kind of measure has more of a headline effect than actually being demonstrated to be genuinely effective.”

Eric Metcalfe has it right about lie detectors. Regarding British proposals for polygraphing sex offenders, see Dr. Drew C. Richardson’s 21 May 2005 letter to the Telegraph. Barnado’s express concern about policy measures that would provide a false comfort, yet only a false comfort can result from relying on such a widely discredited procedure such as polygraphy. Make-believe science yields make-believe security.

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