Hertfordshire’s police force will offer perverts the chance to take a lie detector test in a groundbreaking scheme designed to reduce the risks they pose to the community.
The county’s constabulary will begin training officers as polygraph examiners in an 11-week course starting this month. The controversial method has already attracted interest from other forces including South Yorkshire, who have put forward two officers for the programme.
Suspected paedophiles and sex offenders can agree to an early polygraph test as a way to speed up their cases, while the force would reap savings by reducing the need to carry out full forensic investigations on the computer devices of those confirmed to be low risk following the lie detector process.
The scheme has so far seen 31 men in Herts who had been arrested for downloading indecent images of children undergo the lie detector, which is used widely in the USA and indicates whether a subject may be lying by measuring breathing, heart rates and sweating.
Of the 31 tested, all had been identified as posing a ‘low risk’ to the community. However, following analysis of the lie detector results, less than a third were considered to be genuinely of low risk – the remaining 23 being of higher concern.
According to the force, the lie detector method led to the exposure of new information and a better understanding of the risks posed by sex offenders, as some of those tested were signposted to specialist services for treatment, while others sparked further police investigations.
Three men revealed during the test that they had offended in the past, but while this information can be used for risk assessment, it cannot be used as evidence in a trial.
Det Chief Insp Stuart Orton, who leads the county’s Protecting Vulnerable People scheme, said: “The polygraph testing is not about sex offenders confessing their crimes, it is about assessing the risk they pose to the community and in some cases themselves. It is a measure used with other investigative tools by specialist officers in our Child On-line Safeguarding Team to protect the public.”
Herts’ police and crime commissioner David Lloyd, of Flamstead, said: “Managing the risk that sex offenders pose is challenging and the police service must be creative in its approach. Herts has been at the forefront of this innovative project which provides specialist officers with further ways to manage risk and I’m confident in the months ahead polygraph testing will prove to be highly successful.”