Sex offenders reveal more risk-relevant disclosures through polygraph testing

Kent research has found that police can better protect the public by using polygraph testing with individuals convicted or suspected of committing a sexual offence.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) commissioned report, published on Wednesday 18 March 2020, concludes that voluntary and mandatory polygraph testing increases the likelihood that individuals convicted or suspected of committing a sexual offence will reveal risk-relevant information.

Research was carried out by Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP) over a two-year period. Information was provided by police officers, including risk-relevant disclosures made by participants, the seriousness of disclosures, and actions taken in response.

Professor Jane Wood, Chartered Forensic Psychologist and project lead 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: ‘This research has found that polygraph testing leads to more disclosures from registered sex offenders and 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.

‘Policing in the UK has some of the most advanced and effective tools in the world to manage registered sex offenders and every day officers effectively manage the risk posed to the public by such people. This will always be a complex area of work for police and we continue to look at innovative ways, tools and technologies to keep people safe.’

The report titled, ‘An Evaluation of Polygraph Testing by Police to Manage Individuals Convicted or Suspected of Sexual Offending’ is available via this link: www.kent.ac.uk/school-of-psychology/downloads/kent_polygraph_report.pdf