Lie detectors being tested and may be used in courts

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The Independent Online

LIE DETECTORS are being officially tried in Britain for the first time in tests which could lead to their use throughout the criminal justice system.

LIE DETECTORS are being officially tried in Britain for the first time in tests which could lead to their use throughout the criminal justice system.

The trials, which started last week, involve wiring up convicted paedophiles and rapists to monitor their breathing, heart rate and sweat glands while questioning them on their sexual fantasies.

If successful, the trials could lead to the use of polygraphy tests in criminal investigations and in recruitment for jobs which require high levels of security or involve work with children. The tests might later be used to produce evidence which is admissible in a court of law. In last week's tests, sex offenders were questioned by a team of psychologists and polygraphists. Reports showing whether they are being deceitful could help probation staff to identify the most dangerous convicts. Offenders who are shown to have genuinely reformed may have their level of supervision reduced.

It is also hoped lie detectors will break through the culture of denial among paedophiles, allowing them to undergo therapy. Sources say lie detector examinations are likely to become a requirement for sex offenders released from prison and could, with legislation, become part of probation orders.

The latest tests were conducted by the West Midlands Probation Service, the Home Office's centre of excellence for pioneering treatment of paedophiles and other sex offenders.

Dan Sosnowski, a leading American polygraphist, was invited to Birmingham to carry out the programme after academic evaluation of polygraphic testing in the US revealed a 97 per cent accuracy rate in detecting deception.

"This is not about trying to prove guilt or innocence - that is for the courts," said Dan Wilcox, a Birmingham-based clinical and forensic psychologist. "These tests are designed to tell us whether this person is being deceptive or not."

Polygraphic testing has been regarded with scepticism by the British scientific establishment but in the US, where recent scientific advances have refined the technique, polygraphy has been widely adopted by government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI.