UK: “Lie-Detector Tests on Paedophiles ‘Unreliable'”

David Derbyshire and Roger Highfield report for the Daily Telegraph Excerpt:

A scientist yesterday questioned a proposal to use lie-detector tests on convicted paedophiles to see if they would reoffend.

Initial trials by two American polygraph examiners in the West Midlands, Northumberland and Surrey found that a third of those taking the tests lied when they told probation officers that they were not having unsupervised contact with children.

As a result “significant action” was taken in three cases to prevent them reoffending and the Home Office is now considering a pilot scheme, marking the first time such tests have been used within the criminal justice system in Britain.

But, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Leicester, Dr Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, said the results of these tests should be treated with caution.

UK: “Sex Offenders Could Face Lie Detector Tests”

The Guardian reports. Excerpt:

Sex offenders may soon be asked to take lie detector tests to monitor their behaviour, the national probation service said today.

The machines, which monitor physical responses such as heart rate, could be used regularly if further research proved their reliability, the service said.

Polygraph tests were tested by the national probation service in a series of low-key trials last year, and the use of the machines is still at a very early stage.

National probation chief Eithne Wallis said more research was still needed following the tests, by two American polygraph examiners, in the West Midlands, Northumberland and Surrey.

“If it worked and if there was a robust, demonstrable level of reliability it may be that there would be a place for that as a piece of supporting information in our management of sex offenders,” Ms Wallis told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

A total of 30 sex offenders on probation were asked a series of questions about their past offending, current behaviour and fantasies.

They were asked if they had been in contact with children or on the lookout for victims.

The BBC reported that the tests prevented at least three offenders from committing further crimes.

Sex offenders have been subjected to lie detectors in the US state of Arizona for the last 12 years.

Sandy Gray, a polygraph examiner for the US state, told BBC Breakfast: “They [paedophiles] are very deviant and usually very skilled at being manipulative.

“By monitoring, the polygraph examination is, by far, better than simply accepting and taking their word for what they are doing.”

Ms Gray said the machines monitored blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and breathing patterns.

As well as sex offenders, detectors in the US have also been used in criminal investigations, custody evaluations and professional sexual misconduct cases, while US police departments have even been known to use them in pre-employment checks.

Doubts over the accuracy of polygraphs mean they cannot currently be used by police in the UK and are not accepted as evidence in the courts.

Polygraph examiner Bruce Burgess is one of only two working in the UK and his clients include employers who suspect staff of theft or fraud, and people checking if their partners are being faithful.

Forensic psychiatrist Professor Don Grubin, who oversaw the tests, said the convicted paedophiles had disclosed unauthorised contact with children and that they had visited areas where they might meet children.

But Roger Stoodley, who led the investigation into the paedophile network that included the notorious child killer Sidney Cooke, said he was sceptical of the development.

Sex offenders are practised liars and would be able to fool the most sophisticated equipment, he said.

“Insurance Claimants to Face Lie Detector Tests”

Robert Winnett writes for The Sunday Times of London on the plans of British insurance companies to use voice stress analysis to evaluate the veracity of claims. Excerpt:

THE voices of claimants who telephone their insurers after an accident or theft will go through a lie detector under radical plans drawn up by some of the biggest insurance companies, writes Robert Winnett.

This year Highway Insurance, Britain’s eighth biggest motor insurer, will become the first to install technology that monitors stress in claimants’ voices. Two other insurers have also bought the system to stop false or exaggerated claims.

The industry believes the system will help to slash soaring fraud rates, which, it says, have quadrupled to £2.25 billion a year since 1998. Critics say the system is unreliable and could be used to delay and reject thousands of legitimate claims.

The system measures pitch and tone in voices. If the machine thinks a caller is lying, a red light flashes on the insurer’s desk and the claimant will be subjected to a thorough grilling by investigators.

It is ironic that British insurance companies, in an alleged attempt to curb insurance fraud, should be prepared to commit a fraud against their customers. Voice stress analysis, like polygraphy, is sheer pseudoscience.

“MI5 Ponders Lie-Detectors”

BBC News reports that the British Security Service MI5 is considering adopting polygraph screening. Excerpt:

Tom King, chairman of the [Intelligence and Security Committee], said that it was actively looking at the possibility of using lie detectors to vet recruits and root out traitors.

The defections to the then Soviet Union of Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby, who had all worked for British intelligence, caught the public’s imagination in the 1950s and 1960s.

But, in US intelligence at least, the danger and detection of traitors selling secrets to foreign powers is still an active issue even after the end of the Cold War.

“It is important to look at the issue of betrayal,” Mr King said.

“I think the jury is out on polygraphs. We believe it could have benefits.”

A senior security source told the Press Association that MI5 officers were regularly visiting the US to check on the latest lie detector techniques.

“I don’t think the question of polygraphs is a dead question, I think it’s an open question,” the source said.