The UK government has recently proposed the use of lie detector tests as part of an enhanced package of measures to combat domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse Bill, which aims to protect victims and punish perpetrators of domestic abuse, has been debated in Parliament, with the hope of introducing a range of initiatives to combat this widespread issue.
The bill has been welcomed by campaigners, who estimate that over two million people in the UK suffer from domestic abuse each year, with women accounting for two-thirds of the victims. To champion the challenge of supporting both victims and children, who are often the silent sufferers in the domestic abuse cycle, the government has appointed Nicola Jacobs as the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
However, Women’s Aid has highlighted the need for the bill to be supported by guaranteed funding for specialised women’s services, without which it may not be as effective in preventing domestic abuse.
One of the proposals involves the use of polygraph examinations to prevent domestic abuse re-offending, and thus protect past and potential future victims from further harm. This approach is similar to the Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT) which has been implemented into UK law, allowing parole boards to require regular polygraph examinations for convicted sex offenders released early from prison on “Licence.” PCSOT has been successful in identifying offenders who are at risk of re-offending, thereby protecting potential victims from abuse.
The polygraph has been a valuable aid in sex offender management, helping to identify those offenders who are at serious risk of re-offending, including identifying offending that has taken place since their release. It is essential that the same system is put in place for domestic abuse offenders.
The pilot of the PCSOT process in the UK took several years to complete, and many people believe that this delay was unnecessary. The polygraph examination has been used for the same purpose in the United States for nearly 20 years, and has been instrumental in protecting potential victims from abuse. Delaying the full implementation of the polygraph in domestic abuse cases would fail the victims of the future and would be difficult to justify. If we are serious about reducing offending and protecting past and future potential victims, the polygraph should be introduced as part of the offender management pathway as soon as the bill is passed.
In conclusion, introducing the polygraph test to combat domestic abuse would be a crucial step in preventing re-offending and protecting victims. We hope that the government will take swift action in adopting this approach and that adequate funding will be provided to ensure that it is fully effective in protecting victims of domestic abuse.