Exclusive: No privatised lie detector tests for sex offenders following outsourcing scandals involving G4S and Serco

Decision to scrap outsourcing of controversial polygraph tests is latest blow to Government's privatisation plans following scandals involving G4S and Serco

Crime Correspondent

The Government has abandoned plans to allow the private sector to run lie detector tests for hundreds of serious sex offenders, amid continuing turmoil over outsourcing following scandals involving the country’s two biggest contractors.

The programme to test hundreds of sex offenders was due to start this month but has now been delayed for staff to be trained internally, in the latest blow to privatisation plans for monitoring former offenders in the community.

The compulsory tests for about 750 released serious sex offenders in England and Wales are part of a major planned expansion of the use of the polygraph this year despite concerns over its effectiveness.

Two police forces are set to introduce voluntary testing for people arrested for allegedly downloading child abuse images to examine the potential danger they pose and to identify other victims.

The private sector conducted pilot studies of more than 300 ex-inmates in the Midlands - resulting in 22 being returned to prison because of disclosures they made after using the polygraph. However, the use of private companies to carry out the full programme has been now been ruled out.

It follows last month’s decision to strip G4S and Serco of contracts to monitor tagged offenders, amid allegations that they overcharged the government millions of pounds. The case is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

The two companies, which the Government has relied upon for the vast bulk of its private contracts, are not expected to bid for the specialist polygraph contract. Yet other firms have also been told they can only bid to train and monitor probation staff, and not to run the polygraph programme.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said: “This decision is a humiliating admission that the Ministry of Justice is not able to get value for money and good service from the private sector.

“The fact that the Ministry of Justice has decided not to give the contract for lie detectors to the likes of G4S and Serco is very embarrassing for Chris Grayling. We now need him and the Ministry of Justice to eat a bit more humble pie and stop the dangerous privatisation of probation which is taking huge risks with public safety with no evidence that it will work.”

Insiders believe the programme could be delayed for about nine months before the first testing takes place, though the Ministry of Justice said it expected only a short delay for training.

“We considered options in light of investigations into G4S and Serco,” said a spokesman. “People will speculate as to their involvement but a competition was never under away.”

Labour is considering banning contractors such as Serco and G4S from winning further tenders if the party wins the next general election, the Independent reported last month. The two companies are barred from entering a planned £500m-a-year contract for probation services as lead bidders.

The Government claims the contracts could save taxpayers up to £200m a year with all but the most serious offenders under the supervision of the private sector.

A G4S spokeswoman said: “It's not our practice to comment on tenders for reasons of commercial confidentiality. We cannot comment on why the Ministry of Justice may have delayed this exercise, as that is clearly a matter for them.”

Serco said: “We have no plans to bid for this contract.”

The use of the polygraph is set to expand rapidly within the criminal justice system. Some experts believe it can be used to expose many more offences committed by individual sex offenders, who may have a greater incentive than some other criminals to cover up crimes that spark public revulsion.

The polygraph – widely used in the US - measures breathing, heart rates and sweating in response to questioning which would suggest if the subject has been lying.

Despite conditional backing from the NSPCC, concerns over its accuracy mean the results of any tests cannot be used as evidence in criminal trials.

Police officers in South Yorkshire will use it to assess the offenders on bail or probation and target their investigations after training in Texas. It followed test studies by Hertfordshire police, which is also considering its wider use.

Under the Hertfordshire pilot, suspects arrested for downloading child abuse images were offered voluntary polygraph testing in return for fast-tracking their cases.

Of more than 30 low-risk suspects who took the test, only eight remained in that category afterwards with three men disclosing they had offended in the past. Concerns were raised about others that triggered further investigations, said Don Grubin, professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Newcastle University who oversaw the tests.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “Introducing lie detector tests for high-risk sex offenders, coupled with satellite tagging to track their movements, will give us one of the world’s toughest approaches to managing this group in the community.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum