Polygraph and Domestic Abuse – A new law to protect the victims

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The Government will have the “first reading” of their Flagship Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament this week. Figures show that one in four women is affected by domestic violence in their lifetime and an average of two a week is killed as a result of domestic violence. To address these shocking figures the Government intends to run a three year trial using the Polygraph to monitor offenders when they are released from Prison and could result in them being returned to prison, if they fail the tests. This will be conducted in two, so far unidentified locations in the UK as part of a crackdown on domestic violence.

The Government has stated that it is their “duty” to bring domestic abusers to justice and following the successful application of the polygraph testing of Sex Offenders, the Domestic Abuse Bill aims to incorporate the use of the polygraph in reducing the risks of convicted criminals reoffending. Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT) has been used in America for almost twenty years and was found to assist Probation staff in monitoring and identifying reoffending in convicted sex offenders when they are released back into the community.

The UK Probation Service that was rebranded as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) piloted a similar testing model on sex offenders in the UK in the early 2000s and formerly adopted the process in 2014, following a change in the law which allowed Parole Boards to impose the condition that persons being granted an early release on “Licence” must agree to be regularly monitored by taking polygraph examinations.

Over a 150 UK sex offenders have been returned to prison as a result and polygraph examinations have played an important part in the decisions to return them. Even if each offender had attacked only one more person, that equates to safeguarding so many children that its effects cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the trend now seems to be to deal with sex offenders with non-custodial sentences.

The downfall of which is that there is no power to make convicted offenders take polygraph examinations and the decisions on monitoring them are restricted by the lack of resources available and funding cuts that have affected the efficiency of the NOMS as a whole. This is an unintended consequence that needs addressing and hopefully will receive the same attention as the domestic abuse problem is now.

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