Revealing info on polygraphs

01 April 2020

Research commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council has uncovered evidence that polygraph tests may be useful in managing sex offenders in the community. The project, led by Forensic Psychologist and Chartered member Professor Jane Wood, concluded that voluntary and mandatory polygraph tests increase the chance that people convicted or suspected of sexual offending will reveal information relevant to their level of risk.   

Wood (University of Kent) and colleagues at the Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology carried out the research over two years using information provided by the police including the risk-relevant disclosures made by participants, the seriousness of those disclosures and the actions taken in response to them. The research involved more than 800 people convicted or suspected of sexual offences who were randomly assigned to the polygraph testing or comparison group.

In a statement Wood said: ‘Our findings support the police use of polygraph testing, particularly mandatory polygraph testing, as a supportive tool for managing individuals convicted of sexual offences who live in the community. This is because polygraph testing elicits important new information related to risk that would ordinarily remain unknown.’

National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Lead for the Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders, Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, said in a statement: ‘This research … recommends the introduction of mandatory tests for convicted sex offenders as being the most effective method of monitoring them by police. We will give this research careful consideration alongside others in policing and the Home Office as the recommendation would require a change in the law.’

Read the report, An Evaluation of Polygraph Testing by Police to Manage Individuals Convicted or Suspected of Sexual Offending