The polygraph hit the headlines this week as the Domestic Abuse Bill was again debated in parliament. Those that have campaigned for the bill estimate that there are over 2 million victims of domestic abuse in the U.K. each year, with two thirds of the victims being women. The Government have appointed Nicola Jacobs as the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to champion the challenge of supporting both victims and importantly, the children in the relationship, that are often the silent sufferers in the domestic abuse cycle.
Now that the bill is being bought back to Parliament, MP’s will be presented with what the government describe as an enhanced package of measures that will protect victims and punish perpetrators of what they have labelled an horrendous crime. The bill was originally tabled prior to the recent general election and it was feared that like other
important issues proposed in similar bills, it would no longer be possible for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be debated in what is a very full parliamentary time table. Thankfully, this does not now seem the case.
Women’s Aid said, that the bill could be a life-saving move. But also caution that it has to be supported by funding that is guaranteed for specialised women’s services.
One of the proposals involves the use of the Polygraph examination in preventing domestic abuse re-offending and thereby protecting past and potential future victims from suffering at the hands of previously convicted offenders.
I have previously blogged on the subject of Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT) which has been implemented into law, allowing Parole Boards to place a requirement for convicted sex offenders to be regularly polygraphed when they are released early from prison on “Licence”. PCSOT has proven a valuable aid in sex offender management, helping to identify those offenders who have been released early on licence and are at serious risk of re-offending. Just take a moment to re-read that last sentence so you really appreciate the severity of issues that the polygraph is instrumental in identifying.
In this case, being a valuable aid in sex offender management means that as part of the management process the polygraph can and does identify offenders who are at serious risk of repeating their offending and in some cases, identifying offending that has taken place since their release. In other words, the polygraph protects a child or children from being either abused or further abused by a person who has previously offended.
In this country we were behind the times in PCSOT best practice.
The polygraph has been used, for exactly the same purpose, in the USA for nearly 20 years prior to this country adopting the policy and the USA model was used as the basis of the polygraph management process we now provide in the U.K.
In my opinion the pilot of that process which took years to complete was an unnecessary delay, when the evidence was there from our colleagues in the USA that the process worked and works well at protecting victims from re-offenders. My only reservation about introducing the polygraph examination to assist in managing domestic abuse offenders is the proposal to run a pilot scheme of 300 domestic abuse offenders who will be required to take regular polygraph tests after their release from prison, which has also been suggested for the monitoring and management of convicted terrorists.
The polygraph examination is a proven process in detecting the lies of one of the most manipulative and deceitful offender groups, paedophiles. I fear that delaying the full implementation of the use of the polygraph in all domestic abuse cases simply fails the victims of the future and that delay is difficult to justify. Piloting new ideas or processes is often necessary but in this case the system is proven and the difference in offender type has no impact on the outcome. If we are really serious about reducing offending, protecting past and future potential victims, then the polygraph should be introduced as part of that management of offender pathway as soon as the bill is passed.