Sex offenders could face polygraph testing as part of their licence conditions after research showed that those taking part in a pilot scheme were more likely to be truthful when talking to probation staff.

412202_1Researchers from the University of Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology (CORE-FP) found overwhelming evidence to suggest that sex offenders supervised in the polygraph scheme made more disclosures about their risk to the community.

The Kent research team successfully tendered to evaluate the pilot scheme for sex offenders for the Ministry of Justice over a two-year period.

The legislation, which was agreed in the House of Commons on Tuesday and will be considered by the House of Lords on July 12, means polygraph testing of sex offenders, particularly high-risk offenders, will be undertaken by probation staff throughout England and Wales.

Professor Theresa Gannon, director of CORE-FP, said: “We are pleased to see that our research evaluation has resulted in a change to how sex offenders are supervised nationally.

“The research findings clearly show that the polygraph increases communication between sex offenders and probation staff which has to be a good thing for the community.

“Sex offenders taking part in the pilot project made more disclosures about entering an exclusion zone or making contact with children than sex offenders supervised under normal probation conditions.

“We also found that the polygraph pilot was effective for a whole range of sex offenders, and perhaps most significantly, sex offenders themselves reported finding the polygraph useful for helping them to manage their behaviour in the future.”

Dr Jane Wood, who helped to lead the research, said the polygraph testing had not been universally liked but that the team had received a few positive comments. She said it had helped offenders to better understand their licence conditions.

The pilot polygraph scheme took place across the East and West Midlands probation areas from April 2009 to October 2011. Seven other probation areas where polygraph testing was not implemented were also monitored to see if the pilot polygraph testing really did increase the admissions made by sex offenders to probation staff, a University of Kent spokeswoman said.