In a landmark move, the U.K. Government recently declared their intention to pilot mandatory polygraph tests on domestic abuse offenders over a span of three years. This innovative initiative draws inspiration from the significantly successful implementation of polygraph tests for monitoring sex offenders released early on licence. The goal? To enhance protection for potential future victims and to monitor offender behaviour more effectively.
A Closer Look at the Domestic Abuse Bill 2020
The Domestic Abuse Bill 2020 has vested prison authorities with the legal mandate to subject certain high-risk offenders, released on licence, to undergo polygraph tests. Eligibility for this pilot demands the offender to be 18 or older, have a sentence of 12 months or more, and be convicted of crimes like Murder, specific violent offences, breaches of restraining orders relating to domestic abuse, or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships.
This pilot will be conducted across four Probation Service regions and span an initial three years. This duration is deemed sufficient to accumulate a robust data set of released offenders, ensuring a rigorous evaluation. The Cambridge Centre for Evidence Based Policing will be independently reviewing the program, with the findings set to be tabled in Parliament. Should the pilot prove effective, a nationwide roll-out across England and Wales is anticipated.
Training and Implementation
Key personnel in this initiative are probation officers with a background in managing domestic abuse offenders. These officers are undergoing rigorous polygraph training to ensure the efficacy of the program.
Detective Inspector Jude Holmes, a prominent figure in offender management from Greater Manchester Police, emphasises the importance of polygraph testing. She notes, “The polygraph has been an invaluable tool since 2014 in the U.K. for monitoring compliance of released sex offenders with licence terms. With over 5,000 tests conducted, 2/3 of tested individuals have made significant disclosures.”
The Model for Management
Drawing from the experiences and methodologies of Post Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT) — a technique which originated in America and has been used across all states for over two decades — the management of domestic abuse offenders will be streamlined. The inaugural test is scheduled for roughly three months post-release, with subsequent tests planned every six months thereafter, subject to the initial results.
Though failing a polygraph test alone isn’t grounds for incarceration, admissions made during the pre-test interview can lead to breaches of other licence conditions, potentially resulting in imprisonment. Less severe breaches could result in more frequent testing or the imposition of additional licence conditions. Moreover, any attempts to deceive the polygraph test, either through refusal to take it or by employing countermeasures, could lead to a recall to prison.
The introduction of mandatory polygraph tests for domestic abuse offenders signifies a monumental step forward in offender management. It not only aims to uncover deception but primarily seeks to bolster the protection offered to society’s most vulnerable: children and survivors of domestic abuse. As the pilot unfolds, its potential to reshape the landscape of offender management and community safety in the U.K. will be closely watched.